Shapley Heath Burning Money as Vital Services Cut

Next week the Council will debate the budget for the next financial year. The draft budget for FY2021-22 has been published. It shows that they plan to burn £279K on the Shapley Heath project. Yet at the same time, they are cutting budgets for vital services:

  • The budget for Homelessness will be cut by over £100K compared to the current year
  • They are proposing to cut £600K from the grants given to voluntary organisations compared to pre-Covid spending. In prior years, these grants have typically gone to The Blue Lamp Trust and the YOU Trust that focus on Domestic Abuse, as well as Hart Voluntary Action.
  • The budget for Fleet Pond will be cut from £53K this year to £21K next. This compares to a budget of over £130K in FY19/20.

Meanwhile, the cost of the Leadership team rises from £578K this year (and £720K last year) to £830K next. Overall, they are forecasting a budget deficit of £381K.  Moreover, we can find no budget line to cover regeneration of Fleet or other urban centres. Not even the Civic Quarter regeneration is mentioned.

We need to put a stop to this madness at the ballot box.

Please sign and share the petition you can access from the button below.

Stop Shapley Heath to Balance the Budget

The detail is explained below, but you might be interested in this little 1 minute video.

Shapley Heath Burning Money 2021-22 Budget

The budget for Shapley Heath is buried on page 134 of the budget pack on the link above. It shows a total budget of £279,167.

Shapley Heath Burning Money: Budget 2021-22

Shapley Heath Burning Money: Budget 2021-22

This shows they plan to spend £128K on internal staff costs and a staggering £122K on internal recharges. These recharges include nearly £30K on IT, almost £26K on “Financial Services Recharges” and the best part of £24K on “Corporate Admin Support” charges. A further £18K will be spent on “Building Facilities”.

The Stakeholder Forum papers call for a myriad of studies and reports to be completed by October 2021. For instance, the Homes and Heritage Thematic Group needs to produce reports on Housing Type and Tenure, Urban Design, Heritage and Landscape/Gaps. The Sustainable Transport group has to commission reports on “Modal Shift” and “Transport Nodes”.  However, less than 10% of the budget will be spent on external help to produce all of the reports and studies that will be required. When preparing the Local Plan, most of these types of reports were commissioned externally, as the Council can’t employ all of the specialist skills required. So, they are spending a massive £250K on internal resources to manage an external spend of £25K.

We have no idea how they managed to get consultants to pay them £68K this year, as they have already spent over £27K on PR.

Interestingly, they are assuming that they will receive no further Government support grants for the project. Surely, without Government support the project is dead in the water, because it was struck out of the Local Plan as not required.

Cuts to Vital Services

Despite the largesse on Shapley Heath, they are proposing to cut over £100K from the Homelessness Budget compared to this year and over £600K from the Grants Budget compared to pre-Covid times.

Hart Cuts Budget for Homelessness and Grants for Volunteers

Hart Cuts Budget for Homelessness and Grants for Volunteers

This year, and in previous years, the money has been granted to organisations such as The You Trust and the Blue Lamp Trust that focus on Domestic abuse. In addition, Hart Voluntary Action has been the recipient of significant grants. How can they justify cutting vital services whilst splurging cash on Shapley Heath.

In addition, revenue spending on the much-loved Fleet Pond is being cut. However, there is a significant capital programme planned, funded from S106 payments.

Fleet Pond Budget Reduction

Fleet Pond Budget Reduction

This marks a long term decline in spending from over £169K in 2018/19 to just £21K in 2021/22.

Massive Increase in Leadership Team Costs

Against this backdrop, it’s surprising to see the cost of the Leadership Team rocketing. They are proposing to increase the budget from £578K this year to over £830K next. It might be argued that some of lower costs this year might be down to Covid. However, the budget has still increased by more than £100K over the level in 2019/20.

Hart Leadership Team Increased Spending

Hart Leadership Team Increased Spending

What great leadership. Spending more on yourselves, lots more on a project we don’t need while cutting vital services. We must put an end to this madness at the ballot box.


Shapley Heath Grant Money Down the Drain

If you were wondering how Hart Council has spent the money it has received to progress the Shapley Heath Garden Village (SHGV) project, most of it has gone down the drain. A quick look at their transparency report shows that most of the money has gone on PR and consultants. The transparency report can be found here.

Shapley Heath Spending Breakdown

Shapley Heath Spending Breakdown

You may recall that the council won a £150K grant from Government to pursue Shapley Heath.  A total of £37,561.30 of this has been spent externally to date. Of this, £27,161.30, or over 70% has gone to Chelgate Limited. This is a PR company who describe themselves as:

Chelgate is an independent, international strategic PR agency, headquartered in London, with branches in Brussels and Bucharest, and a network of associates around the globe.

Chelgate combines great strength in traditional PR, public affairs, crisis management and media relations with an exceptional understanding of social media, digital PR and international PR.

The firm has also built an outstanding reputation for its work in acute issues and crisis management, often dealing with exceptionally sensitive and challenging issues.

We’ve yet to notice the “exceptional” social media output. Perhaps they have focused on crisis management?

The second highest payment went to Mike Allgrove Planning. Mike is an ex-local Government town planner, who describes himself on his LinkedIn page:

I have recently left employment in local government, after 29 years, and set up my own consultancy – Mike Allgrove Planning Ltd. I am available for contract roles dealing local and strategic planning policy, interim management or major site implementation. I am currently engaged as a consultant for the Partnership for South Hampshire. I will be managing the collation of the evidence base to facilitate a new Joint Strategy under a statement of common ground that has been agreed by the constituent local authorities.

I have also recently completed short term commissions for a consortium of North Hampshire authorities and the Chichester Harbour Conservancy.

Taylor & Garner is the company owned and run by Lord Taylor of Goss Moor. Lord Taylor has been giving presentations to councillors and to the Stakeholder and Landowner forums.

In short, nothing tangible has been produced with this money. No schematic designs, no viability studies, no infrastructure reports and no sustainability assessment. It’s all just PR fluff.

Shapley Heath Staff diverted to Covid Response

It is difficult to see why they needed to spend thousands on PR for Shapley Heath when next to no work was being carried out on the project. The grant money has also been used to hire staff to work on the project. However, it was confirmed at O&S on 16 February that the staff hired to work on Shapley Heath were diverted to the Covid response.

Perhaps they took their eye off the ball and didn’t properly control costs. The Shapley Heath grant money is going down the drain.




Hart Council Takes Over Shapley Heath Stakeholder Forum

Hart Takeover of Shapley Heath Stakeholder Forum

Hart Council Takes Over Shapley Heath Stakeholder Forum

In an astonishing move, Hart Council is attempting to take over the Stakeholder Forum (SHSF) it has set up to seek advice from the community about the Shapley Heath project. The Council hosted the kick-off meeting and then tightly controlled each of the Thematic Group meetings. The end result is that 4 out of the 10 places on the Stakeholder Forum Steering Committee are now held by Hart Council Officers. In addition, the Hart Project Manager, team members and the joint Chief Executive attend the meetings, giving Hart overall control.

Hart Council takes four of the 10 places on the Shapley Heath Stakeholder Forum Steering Committee

Hart Council takes four of the 10 places on the Shapley Heath Stakeholder Forum Steering Committee

Hart Breaks its Own Rules

In doing this, Hart has effectively broken its own rules governing the Stakeholder Forum. The Terms of Reference (ToR) list the core functions of the Stakeholder Forum.

Shapley Heath Stakeholder Forum Core Functions

Shapley Heath Stakeholder Forum Core Functions

These make clear that it is supposed to be a space for community representatives to feedback to the Council, not for the Council to effectively represent itself. We don’t have accurate figures to hand, but some of the Thematic Groups have many Hart Officers as members. This effectively drowns out the very voices from the local community that the Forum was supposed to listen to. The ToR then goes on to list the groups that will be invited to be members of the SHSF. As one might expect, Hart District Council is notable by its absence, except for the Project Manager.

Shapley Heath Stakeholder Forum Membership

Shapley Heath Stakeholder Forum Membership

The membership section then states that organisations may only be represented by one person each:

Hart Council Takes Over Shapley Heath

Shapley Heath Stakeholder Forum Membership Rules

So, to summarise, Hart Officers shouldn’t be there in the first place. Even if they were allowed as members, there should be only one officer in the whole Forum. It’s almost as if they’re afraid of local community opinion, especially as Hart’s finances are in trouble.

Paper Thin Justification

As you might expect, a number of people and groups have expressed their concern at this development. To our knowledge, nobody has received a proper answer. They have been referred to a new FAQ on the website that says:

Why are Council Officers participating in the Stakeholders Forum Thematic Groups and the Steering Group?

The Garden Community project is a council run project and therefore it is entirely appropriate that council officers sit on the Thematic Groups and the Steering Group as key stakeholders and technical experts. The Council operates within multiple disciplines and employs experts within these disciplines accordingly, many of whom have significant experience. To exclude these experts from the Thematic Groups and the Steering Group would be perverse and seriously limit the collective expertise of these groups. As the Council does and will continue to work within its community, its presence as stakeholders accords with the spirit of the project. As the Cabinet are the ultimate decision-making bodies for this project, no conflict of interest arises. The Stakeholder Forum Terms of Reference confirms that “The Stakeholder Forum, (Steering Committee and Thematic Groups), will be supported by members of the Garden Community Project Team as appropriate.

Many people have suggested that Hart Officers would be welcomed as subject matter experts when invited by the Chair of each Thematic Group. That would be an appropriate role. We will keep readers posted on further developments.

Hart Council to spend £406K on Shapley Heath White Elephant next year

In questions put to them at their meeting on 28 January, Hart Council admitted it planned to spend £406K on the Shapley Heath white elephant in FY21/22. This comes at a time they are secretly planning cuts elsewhere. The question is as follows:

What is the anticipated level of spend on SHGV over each of the next 2 financial years?

They don’t know how much they are going to spend in FY22/23. This comes at a time when the Council is considering a confidential paper about cuts to services because of forecast deficits. They forecast a deficit of £381K in FY21/22 and an eye-watering £1,081K in FY22/23.

No real plans for regeneration of our urban centres post-Covid

We also asked them to set out their plans and budget for regenerating our urban centres after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many of our local businesses have struggled during the pandemic and some have sadly had to close, leading to permanent change to our high streets. What is the action plan and budget over the next 2 financial years to help Fleet and other urban centres recover and regenerate post-Covid?

The answer was fairly vague and somewhat misleading. They have received £1.947m from Government for business support and recovery. Apparently £500K is for the recovery component. This money has to be spent by 31 March 2022. The only paper we can find about their recovery plans can be found here. Most of the actions are completed and include the over £100K spent on the ill-fated closure of Fleet Road. It appears as though most of the remaining money is going to be spent by the Council on itself. Projects include an employee assistance programme, replacing the telephony system and SharePoint training. Whilst these might be worthy projects, they fall far short of what is required.

Our town centres have been permanently changed by Covid-19, and will need very significant investment to re-establish themselves as thriving communities. We can see from this that the Council is prioritising a white elephant project we don’t need over our existing businesses and communities.

Justification for Shapley Heath White Elephant Spending

We did ask them about their justification for continuing to spend at such high level on a project we don’t need when cuts are being contemplated elsewhere:

The latest budget monitoring statement (s4.3) considered by Cabinet in early January, shows a forecast overspend of £972K in 2020/21. The draft budget (s.9.4) considered by O&S shows a deficit of £381K for 2021/22 and a further £1,081K deficit for 2022/23. How can you justify hiring full-time staff and continuing to spend vast sums on an unnecessary Garden Community when core services are at risk of being cut?

The initial answer was very defensive. It was only when pushed that Councillor Cockarill provided more detail.  The money they plan to spend on Shapley Heath is supposed to be coming from Central Government. However, they have set aside money from Reserves to fund Shapley Heath.  Councillor Cockarill did admit that they might have to “reassess the priority” of Shapley Heath if the Government grant doesn’t materialise.

Other Questions

We did ask other more technical questions:

  • Hart’s compliance with the Housing Delivery Test.
  • Whether they are considering an early review of the Local Plan to take advantage of the new lower Government targets.
  • If they will publish monthly project plans and status reports on the Shapley Heath projects.

The questions and answers can be found on the clips below.

Hart Council plans secret cuts as it accelerates Shapley Heath


It has emerged that Hart Council is planning secret cuts as it accelerates the plans for Shapley Heath Garden Community. They are spending money they don’t have on something we don’t need, whilst secretly planning cuts elsewhere.

Hart Council Plans Secret Cuts

The plans for cuts emerged in a budget paper considered by Overview and Scrutiny Committee. They are facing pressures from the Spending Review, changes to New Homes Bonus and Business Rates. In addition, their commercialisation plans don’t seem to be working. So, they have produced a confidential appendix discussing how and when they are going to make savings.

Hart Council plans secret cuts

Hart Council plans secret cuts

The context is that the council is forecasting that it will overspend by £972K in the current financial year. Reductions in revenue and increases in costs caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have damaged their finances this year.

Hart Council Budget deficit 2020-21

Hart Council Budget deficit 2020-21

In addition, it is forecasting that spending will exceed revenue by £381K in 2021/22 and a further £1,081K in 2022/23. The pressures highlighted above will take their toll in the coming years.

Hart Council budget deficits 2021/22 and 2022/23

Hart Council budget deficits 2021/22 and 2022/23

This gives a total shortfall of £2.4m over three years.

Shapley Heath Garden Community Plans Accelerate

As they wrestle with the blackhole in council finances, they are pressing ahead, spending money they don’t have on the unnecessary Shapley Heath Garden Community.  The Stakeholder Forum was treated to a presentation by Lord Taylor of Goss Moor on January 14th. We understand that the Landowners Forum will receive a similar presentation on February 11th.

The “Thematic Groups” that form part of the Stakeholder Forum will meet later this month and probably into February.

Of course, it is well documented that Shapley Heath is totally unnecessary to meet our housing needs.

It does seem rather odd that they are spending money they don’t have on something we don’t need.  We do hope they don’t sacrifice core services on the altar of Shapley Heath Garden Community.

Government housing target climbdown destroys the case for Shapley Heath

Government Housing Target Climbdown

Government Housing Target Climbdown

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.

Government Housing target climbdown: New targets Hart Rushmoor and Surrey Heath

Government Housing Target Climbdown: New targets for Hart, Rushmoor and Surrey Heath

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?


Hart to waste £406K on Shapley Heath Garden Village bid

Hart bid to waste another £406K on Shapley Heath Garden Village

Hart to waste another £406K on Shapley Heath Garden Village bid

Hart District Council have submitted a bid for an extra £406K to fund the unnecessary Shapley Heath Garden Village project. This comes hot on the heels of the £150K they won from the Government last year.

They want to spend the £406K as follows:

  • £151K on new staff that haven’t been recruited yet. These new members will be a Project Support Officer, a Community Engagement Officer and a Land Manager
  • £180K on “bespoke strategy reports”
  • £60K on Engagement and Communication
  • £15K on a high-level viability assessment

The bid document can be found here and ore details on their plans can be found here. They have decided not to publish the appendices to describe the upcoming milestones, housing trajectory and project plan. This means that we cannot see the timeline for what they are supposed to be delivering and therefore cannot hold them to account.

However, we can see that they haven’t achieved anything with the money they have received so far. Of the £150K they received, they have spent £46,637 on consultation and engagement. This appears to have been spent on a survey on the impact of Covid-19, branding advice and a presentation from Lord Taylor of Goss Moor. The rest of the money remains unspent. We know that Covid has been highly disruptive, but that only covers half the time since the money was awarded. The baseline studies that are being funded by the developers haven’t been delivered either.

In short, as Churchill might have said, never in the field of planning history has so little been achieved by so many with so much.

We can only hope that the Government sees through the track record of failure and decides to stop throwing good money after bad.

Shapley Heath Schedule

As a reminder, Hart received £150K of funding for Shapley Heath Garden Village back in July 2019. According to the schedule they submitted as part of their bid, by now they should have produced a development plan document for the new town by now and be preparing to adopt it:

Shapley Heath Garden Village Winchfield New Town Development Schedule

Shapley Heath Winchfield New Town Development Schedule

Fleet BID call for Shared Vision

Fleet BID call for Shared Vision

Fleet BID call for Shared Vision

After the decision to scrap the controversial closure of Fleet Road, Fleet BID has called for a shared vision for the town. In a statement, they said:

Fleet Business Improvement District calls for all organisations and the wider community to come together to create and deliver a shared vision for regeneration of our town that meets the needs of the local community and enables businesses to thrive…

We had reservations about the scheme, particularly the speed with which it was announced and the lack of detail which would show the opportunity this presents for Fleet. In July and August we spoke to businesses in favour and against the scheme and decided to organise COVID safe activities and events to support the economic recovery of the town by encouraging people to come back into Fleet to enjoy the activities and support businesses. Feedback on these events has been overwhelmingly positive and the events have brought people into the town so that business had the opportunity to benefit from the increase in footfall. We have encouraged businesses to get involved and we know that businesses have benefited from these events.

With the country heading into a second lockdown and an uncertain period ahead, focusing on the economic recovery of the town is now more important than ever. Town centres are no longer shopping destinations and we believe that brave decisions need to be made and something needs to change or Fleet will continue to decline. For Fleet to thrive it needs to adapt and become a place that people want to visit and spend time, which in turn benefits shops and businesses. Towns need a broad mix of businesses including retail, cafes and restaurants, health, beauty, wellbeing, entertainment and leisure as well as events and activities to give people a reason to visit.

We Heart Hart welcomes this news. We have been in favour of regenerating Fleet for many years. We would like to offer our support to Fleet BID as they work with the community to build a new vision for Fleet.

Planning for the Future Consultation Response

Planning for the Future Consultation Response

Planning for the Future Consultation Response

Yesterday, we submitted our response to the Government’s Planning for the Future Consultation. Overall, we are saddened by the proposals. We highlighted the consultation back in August. Sadly, time hasn’t changed our view of the proposals.

The White Paper is very far from what we had hoped and expected from a majority Conservative Government. In form it resembles what we imagine a communist five-year plan might have looked like. It starts with an unjustifiable housing target of 300,000 per annum, which isn’t justified by either the data or indeed their own proposed calculation of housing need.

It follows with proposals for massive centralisation of powers including:

  • Centralisation of development management policies.
  • Abolishing the soundness test.
  • Watering down sustainability and environmental assessments.
  • Automatic granting of planning permission.
  • Imposition of new settlements from the centre.
  • Word count limit on objections.
  • Establishment of a new quango to deliver beauty by committee.
  • Trading infrastructure funds for even more (allegedly affordable) houses.

These proposals are completely at odds with the manifesto that committed to “devolving power to people and places across the UK”.

There are some welcome proposals such as the commitment to modernising the planning systems and infrastructure, standardising data and making it more accessible. The new commitment to beauty is also to be welcomed.

But overall, this reads like a missive from an authoritarian regime. We think they need to think again. We can only hope we see some revised proposals in due course.

How to Respond to the Planning for the Future Consultation

There is a download of our response available below. If you share our concerns about these proposals feel free to use this as a basis for your own response. You can respond to the consultation here  or by email to [email protected] and/or contact your local MP:

The deadline for submission of responses is 29 October 2020.

Our Response:

MHCLG Planning for the Future Consultation Response
MHCLG Planning for the Future Consultation Response

Full Consultation document:

Government consultation on planning reforms
Government consultation on planning reforms

Planning for the Future consultation resembles socialist central planning

The Government has launched a “Planning for the Future” consultation on planning reforms that would not look out of place in a socialist five-year plan. The proposals represent a massive centralisation of powers including:

  • An unjustified 300,000 national housing target,
  • Enforcing a new standard method that would see Hart’s housing target increasing to 512dpa,
  • Centralised development policies,
  • Nationally set Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) rates,
  • National design codes enforced by a new quango,
  • Replacing Local Plan documents with an online annotated map,
  • Stifling local concerns by introducing a word count limit on objections,
  • Replacing the existing soundness test with a general sustainable development test,
  • The potential to push through new towns with minimal scrutiny through central Development Consent Orders.

We should expect a Conservative government to ‘conserve’ the countryside. Not create a blueprint for concreting over our precious green fields. The Tories are supposed to be committed to “devolving power to people and places across the UK”. But these proposals concentrate power at the centre.

The proposals are not all bad. The ideas about standardising the data related to planning and improving data quality are to be welcomed. Moreover, the proposals for enhancing the beauty and quality of developments also have merit.

However, if these proposals are adopted they would be disastrous for Hart. The housing target would nearly double from the current standard method to 512 dpa. Under the streamlined planning rules Shapley Heath Garden Village (SHGV) could be pushed through with little scrutiny.

Before we explore these concerns in more detail, you can see the details of the consultations on the download below:

Overall consultation on planning reforms:

Government consultation on planning reforms
Government consultation on planning reforms

Detailed consultation on changes to the standard method for calculating housing need:

Government consultation on standard method
Government consultation on standard method

If you share our concerns about these proposals, please respond to the consultation here and/or contact your local MP:

Hart District lies mainly in NE Hampshire, and the MP is Ranil Jayawardena: [email protected]

Leo Docherty is the MP for the Aldershot constituency which contaims the Blackwater area of Hart:

New 300,000 housing target

The Planning for the Future consultation has set a 300,000 annual house-building target. However, we are not asked to comment upon this target as part of the consultation. It is a “given” even though it’s not based on any evidence.  To illustrate its absurdity, we can calculate the housing target  using the Government’s own methodology:

Planning for the future consultation: England Standard Method for Housing Need

All England Standard Method for Housing Need

The starting point based on household projections actually falls with the new method to ~160K, a little more than half the new 300K target.  The Government’s new methodology then inflates the projections by adding a spurious new affordability adjustment that would take the target to ~256K. Despite this, they have set the target at an arbitrary 300K.

The justification is that household projections don’t take into account suppressed household formation. This is basically young people renting in a house-share or still living with their parents. It is likely that those renting could afford to service a mortgage, but lack the funds for a deposit. Building more houses won’t help these people, they need help with a deposit. Moreover, they are already living somewhere, so no new houses need to be built for them. Those living with their parents can’t afford market rents, so wouldn’t be able to afford a mortgage either. These people require subsidised social rents. Yet, the Government’s proposals on affordable housing will likely cut the number new social rent units (see here para 52).

The Government seems to misunderstand the reason for high house-prices. The main cause of high house prices is low interest rates and Quantitative Easing (QE). Because the flow of new dwellings is tiny compared to overall housing stock, building more doesn’t affect prices. Their own data shows that despite building far more new houses than new households forming, house prices have still risen.

England Households Dwellings and house prices

England Households Dwellings and house prices

If they really want to reduce house prices they should stop QE and raise interest rates. But that’s not going to happen because it will cause a recession. If they really want to deal with housing market problems, they should invest more in social rented housing stock. They shouldn’t be destroying our countryside with houses we don’t need.

Impact on Hart District

The overall impact on Hart would be disastrous:

  1. Increase in housing target to 512dpa, resulting in ~2,500 extra houses over the plan period.
  2. Risk that SHGV will be pushed through with automatic outline permission for the principle of development and a Central Government approved Development Consent Order giving full permssion.

The explanation is as follows. Under the current standard method, Hart’s housing target is 282dpa. Our Local Plan calls for 423dpa. The higher figure being an unfortunate feature of how the Local Plan was examined. However, the new standard method would result in a requirement of 512dpa, an increase of 89dpa, or more than an extra 1,000 houses out to 2032. However, our Local Plan is front-loaded, meaning that we are over-delivering in the early years. This means we are planning to deliver an average of “only” 263dpa from 2022-2032. The Housing Delivery Test would require that the Local Plan be revised to meet the new target of 512dpa. This would result in an extra ~2,500 extra houses out to 2032.

The proposals for growth areas and new towns are shown on p34 of the consultation:

Planning for the future consultation: Automatic permission in principle and development consent orders for new towns

Automatic permission in principle and development consent orders for new towns

Planning for the Future Consultation: Centralisation of Powers

The consultation also calls for a worrying centralisation of many planning powers. This is strikingly similar to socialist regimes producing five-year tractor production  plans. These include:

Enforcing the new standard method described above to meet an arbitrary and unnecessary overall housing target.

Centralised development policies.  Proposal 2 calls for development management policies to be established at national level, removing local control and accountability.

Proposal 3 replaces the existing soundness test with a general sustainable development test. This would remove the soundness principles of plans being justified and effective.

Replacing Local Plan documents with an online annotated map. It is proposed that “new-style Local Plan[s] would comprise an interactive web-based map of the administrative area where data and policies are easily searchable, with a key and accompanying text. Areas and sites would be annotated and colour-coded in line with their Growth, Renewal or Protected designation, with explanatory descriptions set out in the key and accompanying text, as appropriate to the category”. This means that there won’t be a single document that you can print out and read to get a proper overview of what is proposed for your area.

Stifling local concerns by introducing a word count limit on objections to Local Plans.

Nationally set CIL rates. This again removes local control and discretion, handing power to the centre. Hampshire and Hart already have massive infrastructure funding deficits. What happens if the national CIL rates aren’t enough to fund necessary infrastructure?

National design codes enforced by a new quango. Whilst we applaud the commitment to “build beautiful”, we are sceptical that a centralised national quango is the most effective way of achieving this. “We will explore the options for establishing a new expert body which can help authorities make effective use of design guidance and codes, as well as performing a wider monitoring and challenge role for the sector in building better places”.

Overall these proposals amount to a centralised power grab that will diminish local control and accountability. The very antithesis of what a Tory Government should be doing.