How is Hart District infrastructure funded?

Construction Workers

How will we fund the infrastructure we need in Hart District, Hampshire

Infrastructure is a hot topic in the debate about Hart District’s Local Plan, and much misinformation has been distributed by a number of groups.  This post aims to set out who is responsible for funding the different types of infrastructure and which types of development attract contributions from developers.

Who is responsible for infrastructure

Hart District Council published a very helpful Infrastructure Delivery Schedule last October (which seems to have disappeared from their website, but we have saved a copy here) which helps answer the first of those questions.  The detailed table is shown below, but it shows that most of the responsibility for health, transport and education is the responsibility of external bodies.  Hart District Council is responsible for Leisure centres, Community and Cultural Facilities and Green Infrastructure.

What types of development attract developer contributions

The main point to note is that all housing developments, whether brownfield or green field attract developer funding of some sort (be that CIL or S106) with a number of exceptions.

The first exception is office conversions using permitted development rights which attract fewer S106 contributions.  We understand that developer contributions are still required for SANG and SAMM. But such conversions do attract Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) contributions.  Hart has yet to implement a CIL policy, so we are exposed on this type of  development until it does.

However, office conversions will soon will soon have to provide “starter homes” at a 20% discount to market rate under plans being drawn up by the government.

However, proper redevelopment of vacant office sites do attract S106 contributions and we should be doing all we can to encourage developers to take on these sites to deliver proper schemes to make the best use of available land.

The second exception is so called “affordable” homes which also attract no developer contributions.  This is true whether these homes are built on brownfield or greenfield sites.  Hart’s policy is that 40% of new build should be “affordable”.  That means that a new town of 5,000 houses or an urban extension of 1,000 dwellings would only attract developer contributions on 3,000 or 600 of the dwellings respectively.

However, all “affordable” homes attract a higher “new homes bonus” from the Government upon completion, although that level of contribution is under threat from an ongoing consultation from the Government.

[Update]It is worth noting that currently all new homes delivered receive a new homes bonus from Government for a period of six years (potentially reducing to four years).[/Update]

If anyone thinks any of the above is wrong or inaccurate, please do get in touch and show me your sources and I will gladly make a correction.

Table of infrastructure providers and responsible bodies



(1)  Built Leisure
Leisure Centres, Sports Centres,Gymnasiums Hart District Council (HDC); private sector providers
(2)  Community and Cultural Facilities
Multi-use Facilities, CommunityCentres, Village Halls HDC; Parish Councils
(3) Education
Pre-school Hampshire County Council (HCC); private sector providers
Primary school HCC; private sector providers
Secondary school HCC; private sector providers
Post-16 Individual Colleges
Further/Higher Education Individual Colleges & Universities
(4)  Emergency Services
Ambulance South East Coast Ambulance Service; South East Central Ambulance Service
Fire Hampshire Fire Brigade
Police Hampshire  Constabulary
(5)  Flood Defences
Planning for flood defences Hampshire County Council (HCC) has new statutory responsibility as Lead Local Flood Authority and Sustainable Drainage Authority; HDC; Environment Agency (EA); DEFRA
(6)  Green Infrastructure
Suitable Alternative NaturalGreenspace (SANG) HDC; Parish Councils; private landowners
Parks, Gardens, AmenityGreenspace HDC; Parish Councils; private landowners
Sports Pitches HDC; Parish Councils; private landowners
Countryside Access HCC
(7)  Public Health
Primary Care (Doctors, Dentistsetc) Primary Care Trust (PCT) (up to April 2013; replacement bodies thereafter); Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG); Individual Practices
Secondary Care (Hospitals) Frimley Park Hospital; Basingstoke and NorthHampshire Hospital
(8)  Transport
Strategic Highways Highways Agency
Local Highways HCC
Rail Services Network Rail; South West Trains; First GreatWestern
Bus Services Stagecoach; HCC
(9) Utilities
Water South East Water
Sewerage Thames Water
Broadband Private sector providers
Electricity National Grid; Southern Electric
Gas National Grid; Scotia Gas Networks (Southern Gas)
Waste HCC; HDC




More brownfield sites come available in Hart District

Brownfield site: vacant offices at Ancells Farm Business Park, Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire.

Brownfield site: vacant offices near Ancells Farm Business Park, Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire.

Bravehart has been on a tour again, taking photos of newly vacant commercial premises in Hart.  It is becoming increasingly obvious that we can meet our housing needs by regenerating these vacant sites.

Brownfield site: vacant offices at Ancells Farm Business Park, Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire. We Heart Hart. We Love Hart

Brownfield site: vacant offices at Ancells Farm Business Park, Fleet, Hart District, Hampshire.


Vacant offices at Murrell Green, Hart District, Hampshire

Vacant offices at Murrell Green, Hart District, Hampshire


Brownfield site: vacant offices at Winkworth Business Park, Hart District, Hampshire.

Brownfield site: vacant offices at Winkworth Business Park, Hart District, Hampshire.

If you would like to make your voice heard, we urge you to respond to the Hart District Council consultation about the Local Plan and ask them to think again. We have created a dedicated consultation page and two guides to responding to the consultation that are available on the downloads below. The comments are designed to be cut and pasted into the boxes provided. It will be very powerful if you could edit the comments into your own words. Please do find time to respond to the consultation and play your part in saving our countryside.

Full version:

Responses to Local Plan Consultation
Responses to Local Plan Consultation

2 Minute version:

Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes
Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes

Letter to the Telegraph – conurbation from London to the south coast

Winchfield SHLAA Sites in Hart District Hampshire

Winchfield SHLAA Sites in Hart District Hampshire

It seems the Telegraph has picked up on the amount of houses we need to build in Hart, and has published a letter from a Mr Andrew Robinson of Hart District.  The letter and other similar letters from other parts of the country can be found here.

Mr Robinson’s letter reproduced below:

SIR – I see that Hart, in Hampshire, where I happen to live, has come top once again in an annual survey of the best place to live in Britain.

However, its reign will soon end, as the local council is about to plonk 7,500 houses – or more if we are forced to accept a proportion of neighbouring areas’ allocation – in the district over the next 15 years.

The council is simply carrying out the Government’s orders, which go against David Cameron’s pledges on localism and sustainable development.

We in Hart have had over 35 years of urbanisation without infrastructure, mostly imposed via sham public inquiries. Housing and population have grown by around 11 per cent every 10 years, with an additional increase of up to 37 per cent predicted by 2030, by which time Hart’s roads will be almost permanently gridlocked.

This is a small district and these housing impositions should be tailing off by now. Instead we have a Government committed to infinite expansion in a finite land mass. We are going to end up with a Conservative conurbation stretching from London to the south coast.


Well said Mr. Robinson.

We have created a dedicated consultation page and two guides to responding to the consultation that are available on the downloads below. The comments are designed to be cut and pasted into the boxes provided.  It will be very powerful if you could edit the comments into your own words. Please do find time to respond to the consultation and play your part in saving our countryside.

Full version:

Responses to Local Plan Consultation
Responses to Local Plan Consultation

2 Minute version:

Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes
Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes


Creative use of brownfield sites could yield up to 6,500 homes

Leeuwenveld, Amsterdam Netherlands - LEVS architects

Leeuwenveld, Amsterdam Netherlands – LEVS architects

Local architecture graduate, Gareth Price, has published an updated version of his work showing what could be done with brownfield sites in the district. His work shows that there could be capacity for 6,500 homes on brownfield land across the district.  These would include, for some sites, basement car-parks, ground floor commercial and upper floor residential, following a successful trend from the Continent.  This is in-line with what we have been suggesting for months and could create capacity for sufficient housing for decades to come.

The style of development he as put forward would mean that S106/CIL contributions would be required from developers.  It is likely that some of these homes could be affordable units that would generate a larger “new homes bonus” for the district from the Government.  Of course, this money could be used to improve infrastructure in existing settlements where we are facing a £78m funding deficit.  Schemes such as this are much more likely to meet our actual housing need of 60-70% 1 or 2-bed homes and over 2,000 specialist units for the elderly rather than building £750K detached houses in the country for Londoners who want to move here.  We understand the densities proposed are similar to some schemes already granted permission by Hart Council.

Whilst we welcome this work to demonstrate what could be done with a little creativity and ingenuity, we do not necessarily support the density put forward on each site by Gareth.  For instance, we do not believe that such high densities would be appropriate for the former Police College at Bramshill, even though we support the principle of some redevelopment of that site to prevent the Grade I listed building going to rack and ruin.

One has to ask why Hart Council has not taken up our 5-point plan that included inviting teams of architects to paint a vision of the art of the possible with our brownfield sites, as Gareth has shown it can be done. This certainly supports the case for a brownfield solution to our housing needs.

His full report can be downloaded from the link below:

A sustainable approach to brownfield development in Hart District
A sustainable approach to brownfield development in Hart District

We have created a dedicated consultation page and two guides to responding to the consultation that are available on the downloads below. The comments are designed to be cut and pasted into the boxes provided.  It will be very powerful if you could edit the comments into your own words. Please do find time to respond to the consultation and play your part in saving our countryside.

Full version:

Responses to Local Plan Consultation
Responses to Local Plan Consultation

2 Minute version:

Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes
Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes



Which parishes have seen most development Hart District?

Elvetham Heath near Fleet, Hampshire

Elvetham Heath near Fleet, Hampshire

There has been much controversy about how much development there has been in Hart District over the past few years, so inspired by a post on the Winchfield Action Group site, we thought we’d take a closer look at the data.

We have compiled a list by parish and ward of the number of dwellings in each area in 2001 and 2011, according to the census and the results are shown in the table below:

ParishWard2001 Census (Dwellings)2011 Census (Dwellings)% Increase
Blackwater & Hawley177218675.4
Church Crookham330933280.6
Crookham Village156316304.3
FleetNorth (inc Elvetham Heath)13602947116.7
Fleet Total91601131623.5
Hartley Wintney212622224.5
Odiham & Long Sutton271228806.2
South Warnborough21326223

It should be noted that the data only runs up to 2011 and so misses out most or all of certain developments such as QEB in Church Crookham, Dilly Lane and Rifle Range Farm in Hartley Wintney, Edenbrook and the planned new developments at Hawley Park Farm, new development to the North East of Hook and at Watery Lane.

It does show that the area with the largest increase is what was known as Fleet North, which has now been split after incorporating Elvetham Heath.

It is not really for us to point fingers at different areas of the district.  We will let readers make up their own mind and draw their own conclusions from the data.

If anyone finds an error in any of the data, then please do get in touch and we will make any corrections that are needed.


I was asked to provide updated data of the permissions and completions since 2011.  There is no easy way to get this data.  This is a copy of what I received:

The majority of the information (with details of location and parish) on housing completions and permissions for the next few years can be found in the following two published documents :

Appendix 2&3


It’s regrettable  that you only used figures from the superseded five year land supply (2001-2011) calculation in the Interim Housing Delivery Strategy which was superseded by the Five Year Land Supply Position Statement:
Five Year Housing Land Supply Position Statement, 1st October 2015
2014-15, and the Completions list from Hampshire County Council (1st April 2015) both of which were linked on the  council website “Current planning policy and guidance” referring to the local plan consultation, and also discussed at a council meeting.

I’m glad got said you’d incorporate the latest numbers, and look forward to seeing this. I believe you’ll find disproportionate housing allocation to the North and East of the region whilst minimal development in the centre, West or south.

I can confirm that I used neither of the Housing Land Supply documents to produce the table above.  As the original post says, the source for the above is the census.

The link to the pdf just gives a long list of sites in a form that it is impossible to analyse in any meaningful way, least of all by parish.  The spreadsheet contains a list of starts, completions and losses for 2014-2015, a summary of which by Parish is shown below.

Dwellings started completed and lost in Hart District 2014-15


Daily Telegraph picks up on Winchfield new town controversy

Dogmersfield in Hart District, Hampshire

Dogmersfield in Hart District, Hampshire

We are delighted to note that the Daily Telegraph has picked up on the controversy surrounding Hart District Council’s plans for a new town in Winchfield. The image from the hard-copy version can be found here.  Key quotes:

A row over plans to build a new town on a green and pleasant corner of Hampshire has threatened the status of Hart as Britain’s most pleasant place to live…

Opponents say the plans for as many as 5,000 homes – including hundreds of affordable units – and two new schools on a green field site near the village of Winchfield, threaten the very qualities that until now have made the area so desirable.

Local groups have described the plan, contained in Hart council’s Corporate Plan for 2016-18, as “hopeless”….

“We are confident that a proper public consultation… would result in a different housing strategy which would concentrate on brownfield development for the benefit of us all.”

We have created a dedicated consultation page and two guides to responding to the consultation that are available on the downloads below. The comments are designed to be cut and pasted into the boxes provided.  It will be very powerful if you could edit the comments into your own words. Please do find time to respond to the consultation and play your part in saving our countryside.

Full version:

Responses to Local Plan Consultation
Responses to Local Plan Consultation

2 Minute version:

Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes
Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes

Winchfield Action Group covered in Fleet News and Mail

New town is Hartley Winchook say Winchfield Action Group

New town is Hartley Winchook say Winchfield Action Group

We are pleased to note that Winchfield Action Group were covered in Fleet News and Mail yesterday.  A large image of the article can be found here.

The article notes the big risk of effectively coalescing Hartley Wintney, Winchfield and Hook into a giant conurbation that we have termed Hartley Winchook, leading to a massive increase in congestion and strain on public services as well destruction of habitat and our environment.

It is worth noting again that the proposed new town will be roughly three times the size of Elvetham Heath, more than twice the size of Hartley Wintney and about twice the size of Hook.  We don’t need a new town when there is a brownfield solution.

Fear and Loathing in Hart District

Fear and Loathing In Hart District

Fear and Loathing In Hart District (with due acknowledgement to Hunter S. Thompson)

Since I set up We Heart Hart, I have travelled quite a lot across the district (fortunately not swigging tequila and popping pills like the author of the book that inspired the title of this post), met with a number of parish councils and of course I have spent, as one of the councillors put it on Thursday, more time in the Hart Council chamber than some of the members.

Over the past few days I have been accused of lying, misleading people and posting inaccurate numbers.  Last night I was harangued at a parish meeting I attended about the leaflet that is dropping through letterboxes now because it didn’t make clear that the author was from Winchfield.  It took a good five minutes before I could get a word in edgeways to explain, that in fact I was from Hartley Wintney, and I didn’t really see my place of residence as being in any way relevant to opposing a new settlement in Hart.

I have been reflecting on these events, and a number of other interactions I have had over the past year and I must admit it has come as a bit of a shock to me to find such a high level of despair, disdain, denial and dysfunction at the heart of the institutions involved in creating our local plan.  I intend no personal criticism of those involved, because I know many are committed people, who are doing their best as a labour of love.  But at the same time, we need to acknowledge there are some serious issues.

Despair from a lady who had spent over 20 years fighting off various development proposals she disagreed with, but clearly without as much success as she would like and despair from residents who feel as though they have no say over deciding the “needs” of our district.

Disdain from senior councillors who give at best perfunctory answers to perfectly reasonable questions. Disdain from council officers who do their best to avoid answering FOI questions and disdain from a number of councillors who according to one senior councillor will not engage in the Local Plan process unless it affects their own ward.

Denial from a council that sought to limit and censor questions that made them uncomfortable and denial from parish councils who either don’t want to engage in neighbourhood planning or from a parish councillor who wished to ignore 1,800 new houses just to the east of his town’s settlement boundary, even though they were in the parish he served.

And dysfunction from a parish council that spent 20 minutes clearly disagreeing about something, with one faction obviously not in agreement with the other, but neither party actually explaining what the point of disagreement was, and certainly no-one proposing a solution.  But the bigger dysfunction, is in parish councils who simply want to pass the development hot potato to another parish and at the district level, it is apparently bad form for a member to ask a question from the floor to hold the executive to account, even when the plan is running two years behind the schedule set out after the last local plan failed at inspection.

I find it astonishing that otherwise sensible and well educated people can behave in this way and despair as to how anyone could think that a good local plan could emerge from such a situation.

I guess I have been lucky, that for most of my adult life, I have had the privilege of joining teams that were already high performing, or played my part in creating and leading high performance teams. I have noticed several key things that mark out good teams from bad ones.  The first is to have a common objective, the second is honesty and respect in communications, third trust in each other and fourth, no matter how bad a situation may be, you need to accept the truth of it for what it is, and then work to fix it, rather than pretend the issue doesn’t exist.  But above all, leadership is required to join it all together and provide some inspiration.

The local Tory party are as split on the Local Plan as the Parliamentary Labour Party, with rural members totally at odds with urban councillors.  The local Lib Dems are split too, with the Lib Dem County Councillor denouncing the idea of a new town, the local candidates for Hartley Wintney ward similarly coming out against a new town, but the sitting members all voting in favour of a new town in Winchfield in November 2014.  The only party with a consistent position, albeit one that I disagree with, is CCH.  There is no common objective for the district, just a set of petty rivalries between parishes.

So, what do we do about this?  Well, there’s a great quote from the book referred to above: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro”.  Well the going has certainly got weird, so it’s time for someone to turn pro.

First, I would like to see the council reaching out more to the electorate and asking us what we think are the key issues in the district and asking us whether we feel we “need” another 7,500 houses.  I would also like to see a focus on the regeneration of our town centres in the major settlements, like Fleet, Hook, Blackwater and Yateley.  Many councillors talk a lot about “lack of infrastructure”, but none of them have put forward any ideas on how we improve the infrastructure in the existing settlements.

Second, I would like to see some change in the Local Plan Steering Group Team.  They have all been at it for some time, no doubt many of them were part of the team that put forward the plan that failed in 2013 which has left them with scars.  It is also an all male group, so it would be good to see some of our female councillors appointed to the LPSG to bring a different dynamic to the group.  I really do think some training and group work on conflict resolution and effective conversations will help them and the whole council.

We also need to see some of the councillors lifting themselves up above their own wards and thinking strategically about what is best for the whole district.  Surely it cannot be sensible or sustainable to concrete over green fields, equivalent to 17 football pitches each year to meet our so called housing needs? Many of the councillors complain about poor planning decisions in the district in the past, but are showing precious little sign of learning lessons and changing the process. It is time for some real leadership and some proper vision, and if they don’t have that amongst their number, then they need to bring in some people who do.

We the electorate also need to take some responsibility for the people we elect, and in the medium term, look to elect some new blood to change the perspective and bring new talents.





Bravehart answers question posed to We Heart Hart

Bravehart - We Heart Hart Mascot

We Heart Hart’s mascot, Bravehart

As has become the style of Parliamentary questions, I have been posed a question by Steve of Fleet West.  It’s a long and complicated question, but I will do my best to answer it.

The question put to me was:

Question for you. Because Hart already has more SHLAA sites than needed, the duty to cooperate under the localism act required us to use them to deliver neighbouring districts excess needs regardless of whether a new settlement is selected as an option. Some of the SHLAA sites used would inevitably be those in And around Winchfield, but without the master planning and infrastructure provision possible with a planned settlement. And many would be urban extensions causing a burden on existing towns causing further local issues. Do you not think this is the case, and if so why?

First, my understanding is that the “duty to cooperate” is not a “duty to agree” (as we were told by Peter Village QC) and Hart should be robust on two fronts:

  • They should challenge the alleged “need” in the SHMA.  We’ve already established it is based on out of date population forecasts and calls for an “aspirational” level of employment growth that is simply unrealistic.  If these arguments are taken on board, the whole issue of having t meet the needs of neighbouring districts falls away.
  • Hart DC should be robustly challenging Rushmoor in particular who could build more by increasing the density at Wellesley and by releasing some or all of the 96 Ha of employment land they are protecting that it not needed to meet even the inflated employment forecasts.  Rushmoor could even meet some of Surrey Heath’s unmet need.

Second, with or without a new settlement, I simply do not believe the infrastructure numbers add up, and I believe we are being sold a pig in a poke.  £300m costs, versus £50m of developer contribution against an existing £78m infrastructure funding black hole.

Third, it is extremely unlikely that individual Winchfield sites will be picked off (outside those recommended in the Winchfield Neighbourhood Plan) because they simply do not meet the criteria as suitable places for development.  Let’s run through some of the constraints identified in the official evidence base:

SHL 83: The area of the site which is a SINC should not be developed and should be protected from any development, as should those other SINCs nearby. A contribution towards SPA mitigation would be required. Policy would need to be changed for this development to be permitted by way of allocating a settlement boundary to Winchfield which includes this site (however this seems unlikely given that the site is on the other side of the M3 from the rest of Winchfield. The constraint relating to the location, remote from settlements with a boundary seems unlikely to be overcome therefore the site may not be considered suitable or achievable in future.

SHL 133: The fact that the site does not relate to any existing settlement boundary cannot be overcome. Policy would need to be changed for development to be permitted at this location by way of a broader strategic allocation.

SHL182: Site is not related to any settlement; Southern boundary edge within flood zones 2 and 3. Mostly high, but partly medium potential likelihood of groundwater flooding.

SHL183: Site is not related to any settlement; North eastern corner in flood zone 2 and 3; High potential likelihood of groundwater flooding.

SHL184: Site is not related to any settlement; Mostly medium, but some high potential likelihood of surface water flooding.

And then of course we have the Adams Hendry assessment of the combined strategic site:

  • “The road infrastructure in the Winchfield area reflects the areas rural character and has limited capacity for additional traffic. Therefore a key infrastructure issue for developing any significant level of housing at Winchfield is how the road infrastructure can be upgraded to meet the projected levels of demand and how traffic to/from the new development would access the M3 Motorway.”
  • “There are a number of significant nature conservation features and designations either adjacent or in close proximity to the site.
  • “Some part of the site are subject to area based TPOs, particularly to the north of the site, near to Winchfield House”.
  • “The Hampshire Minerals and Waste Plan Policies Map indicates that parts of the site contain areas subject to minerals safeguarding for sharp sand and gravel… The extent to which this might constrain development will need to be assessed, including through engagement with Hampshire County Council.”
  • “The two halves of the site differ in landscape terms with the western half being characterised by the mosaic pattern of generally medium-sized fields interspersed by numerous wooded copses and heavily wooded field boundaries… Most of this part of the site could reasonable be characterised as attractive rolling countryside… The potential for new development within this area to negatively impact on landscape character is considered to be significant.”
  • “The eastern half of the site is much more open, except for the southern portion near to the Basingstoke Canal… The countryside in this area is less attractive than the western part of the site, although its lack of current development and open nature means that significant development in this area has the potential to cause considerable harm to landscape character.
  • “It is possible that the site contains some ʻbest and most versatileʼ (BMV) agricultural land, but this would need to be confirmed through a survey.”
  • “There are a variety of Listed Buildings within and adjacent to the site… The most significant heritage features impacting on the site are as follows:-
    • The Basingstoke Canal Conservation Area… there is considered to be a risk that development towards the south of the site will negatively impact on the setting of the Canal;
    • Dogmersfield Park (Historic Park and Garden)
    • Winchfield House (Grade II*) and its extensive grounds
    • St Mary’s Winchfield if a Listed Norman Church (Grade I)… it is considered that development close to the southeast boundary could have a negative impact on the currently very rural and sparsely developed setting of the church.”
  • “Significant parts of the site are subject to the risk of groundwater flooding at the surface”.
  • “The nature of the site, split, with substantial areas of farmland, as well as Winchfield Station between the two halves is considered to significantly influence how a new settlement could be planned. It would be challenging to plan a compact nuclear settlement on this site and the shape of the site lends itself more to a linear or ʻlinked polycentricʼ approach.”
  • “Development at the north of the site risks leading to settlement coalescence with Hartley Wintney”.
  • Overhead power lines traverse the site and may represent a constraint”.
  • “The extent to which environmental noise from the motorway and railway impacts on the site should be ascertained”.

So, it seems that Winchfield is a bad location for a new settlement, and an even worse location for individual developments.  I would hope we can avoid urban extensions on green fields too, and would like to see significant regeneration of existing towns and investment in infrastructure in those places.


How developers have gained a stranglehold over Local Plans

The latest 2012-based government projections of population and the number of households points to a need of around 215,000 dwellings per annum, compared to recent delivery of around 150,000 new dwellings each year. It is clear we need to respond to the objective in the National Planning Policy framework to “boost significantly the supply of housing”. To achieve this, it follows that the sum of all the housing market assessments across the country should add up to the total expected increase in households, or a little more to give some margin of safety.

However, there is increasing evidence that housebuilders have too strong an influence over the process that is leading to housing market assessments being artificially inflated to a level much higher than that required by the national household projections.

By way of example, in Hart, the only consultees outside of the council in the work to produce the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) were housebuilders, their representatives and registered providers. The resulting objectively assessed “need” was nearly 50% above the starting point identified by the DCLG’s 2011-based population projections. A series of adjustments were made to the raw forecasts to take account of inward migration to the area, average household size and a near doubling of the historic job creation rate. Many of these adjustments have been shown to be erroneous by the release of the DCLG 2012-based population forecasts that are much lower than those identified in the needs assessment.

The experience of the Hart, Surrey Heath and Rushmoor SHMA is by no means unique. Analysis of five other housing needs assessments of planning authorities across Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey and Berkshire reveals an average housing uplift on the baseline population projections of around 42%.

If this were applied across the whole country, then we would be allocating land and allowing the building of some 305,000 new dwellings each year, far above the national requirement. This goes against latest planning guidance that states that housing need should be “principally understood as a measure of future demand rather than aspiration”. An FOI request has been made to the DCLG to provide the national figures, but this has been refused on the grounds that DCLG “does not hold this information”. Given the importance that is being placed on housing delivery, it is quite staggering that central Government is not monitoring the results of housing needs assessments on a national basis.

As a group of local residents, we looked at the housing needs assessment for Hart and came to the conclusion that many of adjustments and the resulting “need” were inappropriate and challenged the Council. But, as we were lay people and not planning “experts” our views fell on deaf ears. So, we decided to seek the opinion of professional planning consultants to provide an independent challenge to the objectively assessed need. Our experience indicates that many planning consultants are reluctant to get involved in challenging these assessments because they get most of their work from developers and do not wish to bite the hand that feeds them. We approached a number of planning consultants and they either did not reply to us, were conflicted or said they normally act for developers and would be unable to help. Eventually, we found Alan Wenban-Smith.

Once a Local Plan gets to the stage of being examined by the Planning Inspector, the situation gets worse. Because housing needs assessments are usually produced for a combination of planning authorities but Local Plans are examined at the planning authority level, the actual housing need numbers are effectively unchallengeable. The examination focuses on the process for arriving at the housing need and the actual content is immune from challenge. Residents and environmental interests are being crowded out of inspections by the expensive hordes of lawyers, agents and consultants hired by builders and landowners who share an interest in a narrow discussion focused on achieving the maximum possible increase in estimated housing needs.

In effect, the whole process of assessing housing need through to inspecting the resulting Local Plans has been hijacked by the development industry and their narrow interests. This is in direct contravention of the NPPF which states that local people should be empowered to shape their surroundings, with succinct local and neighbourhood plans setting out a positive vision for the future of their area.

The consequence of this is that local planning authorities are being bounced into allocating green field sites for development because they are easier to develop than brownfield sites. This will result in an over-supply of land and lead to land-banking by the developers, who will only build at a rate consistent with maximising their profits. If they supplied new housing at a rate that meant house prices fell, they would immediately reduce output because their business model and in particular the price they pay for land is predicated on steadily increasing house prices. So, in effect we are being asked to allocate too much of our most valuable green field land for housing, but will not actually increase the supply of housing to meet the needs of our neighbourhoods and we leave acres of vacant and derelict brownfield sites.

We need to take action now to remove the stranglehold of developers have on this process, put more power back in the hands of local people and take further measures to mandate the development of brownfield sites and protect our countryside. This might involve increasing the powers of local authorities to compulsorily purchase derelict sites and use the profits to invest in our creaking infrastructure.

We must stiffen the resolve of our local representatives to resist the self-interest of developers and work instead for their electorate.  We must also stand up and fight for brownfield only development to protect our countryside from urbanisation. We must vote against a new town.

We have created a dedicated consultation page and two guides to responding to the consultation that are available on the downloads below. The comments are designed to be cut and pasted into the boxes provided.  It will be very powerful if you could edit the comments into your own words. Please do find time to respond to the consultation and play your part in saving our countryside.

Full version:

Responses to Local Plan Consultation
Responses to Local Plan Consultation

2 Minute version:

Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes
Respond to Local Plan Consultation in 2 minutes