Michael Gove Shakes Up Planning Rules

Michael Gove Shakes Up Planning Rules

Michael Gove Shakes Up Planning Rules

Michael Gove has sent a letter to MPs announcing a major shake up of the planning rules. Some of the changes were also reported in the Telegraph (subscription may be required). On the face of it, the changes look positive for Hart and Hart residents. Of course, the devil is always in the detail, so we will have to remain vigilant.  However, we are hopeful that these changes will finally kill off any idea that we need to build Shapley Heath. The changes are

  1. Central housing targets not mandatory
  2. Build less to take account of heritage restrictions and flood risk
  3. Not expected to build at densities out of character with existing areas
  4. Pursue gentle density in urban areas
  5. End obligation for 5-year land supply where plans are up to date
  6. Credit given for past over-supply
  7. Increase protections afforded by Neighbourhood Plans
  8. Brownfield first


Central Housing Targets Not Mandatory

According to Gove’s letter, central housing targets will become “an advisory starting point, a guide that is not mandatory”. “It will be up to local authorities, working with their communities, to determine how many homes can actually be built, taking into account what should be protected in each area – be that our precious Green Belt or national parks, the character of an area, or heritage assets.”

This means that for instance, we might be able to protect the Shapley Heath site because of its unique character and the heritage assets such as St. Mary’s Church.

Build less to take account of heritage restrictions and Flood Risk

Quoting from the letter: “Local planning authorities will be able to plan for fewer houses if building is constrained by important factors such as national parks, heritage restrictions, and areas of high flood risk.”

As mentioned above, there are heritage issues on the Shapley Heath site and of course high risk of flooding from surfacce water and groundwater across much of the site.

Not expected to build at densities out of character with existing areas

Again, according to the letter: “Local authorities will not be expected to build developments at densities that would be wholly out of character with existing areas or which would lead to a significant change of character.”

The area around Winchfield is very low density, which is part of its charm. Clearly a Garden Community of 5-10,000 houses would be out of character and change the character of the area irreparably.

Pursue gentle density in urban areas and Brownfield First

Michael Gove’s shake up of the planning rules also impacts urban areas. He says that “while more homes are needed in many existing urban areas, we must pursue ‘gentle densities’ as championed by the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission.”

He also commits to a Brownfield First strategy: “The Government is investing to incentivise and enable brownfield development. Homes England, our housing delivery arm, is spending millions on acquiring sites in urban areas to regenerate for new housing. We are also allocating over £800m to mayoral and local authorities to unlock over 60,000 new homes on brownfield land, as part of our wider brownfield and infrastructure funding package.

This should tilt the balance towards regeneration of urban centres in Hart such as Fleet, Blackwater, Yateley and Hook.

End obligation for 5-year land supply where plans are up to date

Gove also plans to end the obligation to have a rolling 5-year land supply. “We will end the obligation on local
authorities to maintain a rolling five-year supply of land for housing where their plans are up-to-date.”

Hart’s plan is up to date. Hart’s Local Plan is front-loaded, so we had a potential issue that we might have had to find additional sites towards the end of the plan period to maintain the 5-year land supply. It seems that this issue will be resolved, further weakening any case for building Shapley Heath.

Credit given for past over-supply

Michael Gove has also proposed giving credit for past over-supply of housing. “I want to recognise that some areas have historically overdelivered on housing – but they are not rewarded for this. My plan will therefore allow local planning authorities to take this into account when preparing a new local plan, lowering the number of houses they need to plan for.”

Hart has over-delivered on housing for a number of years. Some of this is taken into account in the 5-year land supply calculation. However, this change should allow Hart to reduce the housing requirement target in future years.

Increase protections afforded by Neighbourhood Plans

Finally, changes are proposed to increase the protections afforded by Neighbourhood Plans. “I will increase community protections afforded by a neighbourhood plan against developer appeals – increasing those protections from two years to five years. The power of local and neighbourhood plans will be enhanced by the Bill.”


Overall, we view these as positive changes for Hart as a whole.




Proposal for Massive Distribution Centre at Lodge Farm

Proposal for Massive Distribution Centre at Lodge Farm

Proposal for Massive Distribution Centre at Lodge Farm

There is a new proposal for a massive distribution centre at Lodge Farm, North Warnborough.  The backers have submitted a “scoping opinion” for an Environmental Impact Assessment and a separate pre-app to Hart Council. The company promoting the scheme is Obsidian Strategic.

The proposal is enormous in scale. Their cover letter calls for 105,000 square metres (or over 1.1m sq ft) of B2/B8 (storage and distribution) floor space over 5 separate warehouses. They also plan to provide space for 200 EV charging points. The overall site is over 32 hectares or 79 acres. The cover letter says the buildings will be 18-20m tall. However, the “Theoretical Visibility Plan” says 15-35m above existing ground level.

[Update 13 Jan 2024]: A dedicated group has been set up to oppose this development. You can visit their website to see their detailed objections here. [/Update]

Proposal Details

The scoping opinion application (Number: 22/01347/EIA ) can be found here.

The pre-app (Number: 22/01355/PREAPP) can be found here.

The scoping opinion was submitted first and at the time of writing had attracted 333 public comments, mostly opposed. Only 3 comments were in favour. The pre-app appears to have slipped under the radar, attracting only 3 public comments, all opposed.

We think that those who have objected to the scoping opinion should also submit their comments on the pre-app. It is difficult to object to a request for an opinion. Better to object to the actual application. However, Hart seem to only allow comments on the scoping opinion and not on the pre-app. This seems very odd to us, but we have sent in an objection direct to [email protected]. Both applications seem to have been delegated to officers to make a decision without the involvement of councillors, another worrying feature of this proposal.

Below we set out our main reasons for objecting to the proposed distribution centre at Lodge Farm.

  1. Fatally flawed Flood Risk assessment glosses over groundwater flooding.
  2. Incomplete Ecology Assessment misses out Basingstoke Canal impact.
  3. Defective Transport Assessment.
  4. No Analysis of Noise and Pollution
  5. Impact on Key Views from the Canal.
  6. Optimistic Economic Assessment overlooks Pyestock/Hartland Park distribution centre was cancelled.
  7. Impact on Food Production.

Each point is covered in more detail below:

Flood Risk at Proposed Distribution Centre at Lodge Farm

As part of the application, they have produced a Flood Risk Assessment. The document covers fluvial, surface water, reservoir, sewer and groundwater flooding.

The site is adjacent to the River Whitewater and part of the site to the South East is deemed at risk of flooding from the river. They have carefully avoided siting any of the warehouses on that part of the site. Roughly the same part of the site is assessed as being susceptible to surface water flooding. They propose to address this issue using a Sustainable Drainage System or SuDS.

However, their assessment of groundwater flooding is superficial and they do not provide a map. Helpfully, Hart has an online map that shows areas subject to groundwater flooding. We have superimposed the site boundary on to that map and it shows that most of the site is subject to groundwater flooding. See the image below.

Distribution Centre at Lodge Farm - Groundwater Flood Risk

Distribution Centre at Lodge Farm – Groundwater Flood Risk

We can certainly add anecdotal evidence to that map. A few years ago we got stuck axle deep in muddy water while attempting to cycle through the adjacent Bartley Heath woods. We recall the fields that the site covers were also flooded at that time.

Incomplete Ecology Assessment

The promoter have also produced an ecology assessment. However, this is incomplete as it fails to address the proximity of the site to the Basingstoke Canal SSSI and conservation area. About a third of the site is within the 500m buffer zone for the canal and all of it within the 1,500m buffer zone. As can be seen in the image below, the site is adjacent to a large number of SINCs and other SSSIs.

Distribution Centre at Lodge Farm - Ecological Constraint of Basingstoke Canal

Distribution Centre at Lodge Farm – Ecological Constraint of Basingstoke Canal

The report also highlights important species that have been found nearby including dormice, otters, water voles, hedgehogs, harvest mice and rare breeds of bats. Indeed some of the trees on site are assessed as being suitable to support roosting bats. They propose keeping those trees and implementing a “sensitive” lighting scheme. However, we remain to be convinced that the noise and pollution from thousands of daily HGV movements will be conducive to supporting bat or any other habitat.

Defective Transport Assessment

Obsidian Strategic have also produced a transport assessment. Unfortunately it is defective in two key respects:

  1. It omits the additional traffic movements from the 1,500-2,400 employees at the site.
  2. It doesn’t cover the impact on roads and junctions in the wider area.

Employee Traffic Movements Omitted

The assessment covers the additional traffic movements from the vehicles using the new centre. It quotes a range of additional movements dependent upon the eventual end use. The range is somewhere between 4,509 and 12,273 additional movements per day. The highest peak morning would be 581 2-way movements. the evening peak could be as high as 810 2-way movements. The report also says that a “high proportion of the vehicles to/from the site will be HGVs”.

Distribution Centre at Lodge Farm HGV movements

Distribution Centre at Lodge Farm HGV movements

The report also covers the additional movements generated by the 200 EV charging stations. They estimate the 200 charging stations could lead to 2,000 additional 2-way movements per day. This gives a total maximum number of 14,273 additional movements per day. We estimate that could be 700 total additional movements in the morning rush hour and nearly 1,000 in the evening busy period.

The economic assessment suggests that the proposal could deliver 1,500-2,400 jobs at the site. However the transport assessment doesn’t seem to take account of the additional movements from the employees. Of course, not all of the employees will work on the same day. But it is reasonable to expect the additional employee movements will be of the order of 1-2,000 per day.

They also talk of potentially providing service facilities to support the EV charging stations. It is possible that non-EV vehicles may stop at the services too, further increasing traffic.

Overall, this is a massive increase in traffic, mostly of heavy vehicles. We hesitate to think what impact it will have on J5 of the M3 and surrounding roads, especially at already busy peak times.

Wider Impact Ignored

The backers have not run a full Traffic Impact Assessment. They assume that the biggest impacts of the proposed development will be on the A287/B3349/Holt Lane roundabout and the Station Road/B3349 roundabout in Hook.

However, they have not really considered the wider potential impacts. They haven’t looked at the additional traffic likely to be generated on the B3349 from the A33 and M4. It is inconceivable that such a large warehouse would not attract traffic from the M4. Nor have they looked at the potential impacts further along the A287, notably the junction with the B3016 to Winchfield and the single carriageway part of the A287 towards Farnham and through Upper Hale.

Surely, this can’t be allowed to go ahead with such a superficial analysis of the traffic impact.

No Analysis of Noise and Pollution

In addition to the big increase in traffic movements, such a massive development is bound to have an impact on noise and pollution levels for the surrounding area. As far as we can tell, Obsidian have not provided any analysis of noise or pollution. We would have particular concern for the residents of Holt Lane, Derby Fields and Mill Lane

Surely, they can’t be allowed to get away with this?

Impact on Key Views

Hart’s Conservation Appraisal of Basingstoke Canal contains a number of key views. One of them is view number 6 looking northwards across the river Whitewater flood plain.

Basingstoke Canal Key Views

Basingstoke Canal Key View Number 6

We can’t imagine how 5 warehouses, each 20m tall will do anything to enhance this view.

Optimistic Economic Assessment for Proposed Distribution Centre at Lodge Farm

They have produced an economic assessment for the proposed development. They do make some good points about additional jobs, extra business rates and an increase in gross value added for the area.

However, they make extensive use of the 2016 Hart, Rushmoor and Surrey Heath Employment Land Review in their assessment. They make the claim that “only two out of the 24 [employment] sites have ‘distribution’ identified as their core use”.  This may well be true.

What they don’t mention is that Pyestock/Hartland Park was removed from the review.  Outline planning permission had been granted in 2005 for a 125,500 sq m distribution centre. The permission was extended in 2012. Even though the nearby road system has been improved to cope with the extra traffic, no takers could be found for the distribution centre. Later the site was sold and is now being redeveloped for housing.

It is difficult to believe their claims for a shortage of distribution sites, when a site of similar size could not find an investor at a time vacancy rates were even lower than today.

South East Logistics Availability from CBRE report

South East Logistics Availability from CBRE report

Note that the vacancy rate data shown above is taken from the CBRE report included in their own application. We conclude that the economic benefits they promise should be taken with a rather large pinch of salt.

Impact on Food Production

It is widely acknowledged that the world is about to endure a food crisis. The Prime Minister has outlined plans to boost UK food production with his “Grow for Britain” strategy. The site of the proposals is currently used for agriculture and food production.

It seems to us, that we should do all we can to protect the nation’s food security and keep growing food on productive fields, rather than concrete over them.

Conclusion on Proposed Distribution Centre at Lodge Farm

We believe that we should oppose this development because of the flood risk, the risk to local ecology, the additional traffic, noise and pollution, impact on the views from Basingstoke Canal and the apparently illusory economic benefits.



Shapley Heath Major Road Transport Issues

Shapley Heath Major Road Transport Issues: Eastbound travel perhaps requires new road

Shapley Heath Major Road Transport Issues: Eastbound travel perhaps requires new road

We first raised issues about the Shapley Heath sustainable transport goals here. That post focused on the minor roads within the area of search. This post examines the major road network surrounding the proposed new development and the gaps in the network. The Shapley Heath Survey has a number of questions about “sustainable transport”. Interestingly, there’s not even an option to request improvement to local roads or to rail services.  When many people think of sustainable transport they think of walking, running and cycling. This can be for fitness, leisure, work or even light shopping.  So, it is worth exploring whether the road network in and around the area of search is capable of delivering the basics such as pavements and cycle paths.

The conclusion for the major roads is that significant investment will be required to alleviate congestion and provide adequate pavements and cycle paths.  Here is the overall assessment, followed by an examination of each road one by one.

Shapley Heath Major Road Issues - Overall Assessment

Shapley Heath Major Road Issues – Overall Assessment

Having read the rest of this article, you might like to respond to the Shapley Heath survey. This is your chance to make known your concerns about the proposals. We have produced a handy guide with suggestions as to how you might choose to answer the freeform questions. The guide can be found on the download below. The full survey can be found here. The survey closes on 5 July.

Shapley Heath Survey with Suggested Responses
Shapley Heath Survey with Suggested Responses

Eastbound Travel

Starting with the those people who might want to travel to Crookham Village, Church Crookham, Fleet or further afield to Farnham, Farnborough or Guildford. We have already established that Chatter Alley, which is only single lane in places with no cycle path or pavement is totally unsuitable for a massive influx of new cars and people. Similarly, Pale Lane is too narrow. So, that raises the possibility of a new road from the eastern tip of the area of search to Hitches Lane. This would help access to Fleet and the Crookhams. This is shown on the image at the top of this post. It would need to be a proper 2-lane road with cycle paths and at least one pavement. Sadly, it would cut through part of the Edenbrook Country Park, but we can think of no other way of directing the extra traffic from 5-10,000 new houses eastbound.

Shapley Heath Major Road Transport Issues: A287


Shapley Heath Major Road Transport Issues: A287

Moving clockwise, the next major road is the A287. The junction with the B3016 Odiham Road is already dangerous. So, there would need to be a new roundabout across the dual carriageway there. The rest of the road is suitable for busy 2-way traffic, but there’s no pavement or cycle path for much of the length of the road. That means this road would need to be widened to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists. And the roundabouts to Odiham and North Warnborough would probably also need to be improved.

M3 Junction

M3 Junction

M3 Junction

Prior studies into a Winchfield new town have raised the possibility of a new motorway junction. This seems unlikely on cost grounds, which means that significant improvements to Junction 5 of the M3 will be required. There is a rudimentary pavement across the junction that can also be used by cyclists, but it is quite dangerous. The pavements on the approach roads are also poor with scant provision for cyclists.

Hook Roundabouts

Hook Roundabouts

Hook Roundabouts

There is little provision for pedestrians on the B3349 from the M3 to Hook and no cycle lane. The roundabout already gets busy so would probably require improvement if Shapley Heath gets built. The other roundabout on Griffin Way South has poor provision for walkers and cyclists and would also need to be improved. Similarly, the roundabout with the A30 would need to be improved, especially as more houses are already being built near there.

Shapley Heath Major Road Transport Issues: A30 London Road

A30 London Road

A30 London Road

The A30 does have a pavement/cycle path between Holt Lane and the turning for Borough Court Road. However, elsewhere the pavement provision is poor. There is room for a cycle path on the dual carriageway part, but not elsewhere. Presumably a new access road will be built to access the Murrell Green part of the development, so a new roundabout across the dual carriageway will be needed.

Hartley Wintney Junctions

Hartley Wintney Junctions

Hartley Wintney Junctions

There are pavements at each of the junctions in Hartley Wintney, but no cycle lanes. However, main road through Hartley wintney gets very busy already, so significant improvements will need to be made at the following junctions:

  • A30/Dilly Lane & Thackham’s Lane
  • A30/B3011 Bracknell Lane
  • A30/A323 Fleet Road

It’s not at all clear if there is enough space to make significant improvements such as adding extra lanes.

Shapley Heath Major Road Transport Issues: A323 Fleet Road

A323 Fleet Road

A323 Fleet Road

It is already almost impossible to turn right out of Church Lane on to Fleet Road, so this junction would need to be improved, perhaps with a roundabout. The stretch of the A323 from Hartley Row Park to the M3 bridge would need widening and improving because it has no pavements and no cycle lane. The junction with Pale Lane would also need to be improved, probably with a roundabout.


Guest Post: What is wrong with Shapley Heath

What is Wrong with Shapley Heath

What is Wrong with Shapley Heath

Today, we have a guest post from Tristram Cary, chairman of the Rural Hart Association. In this post, he sets out his reasons why the Shapley Heath Garden Community is a bad idea.

Having read the rest of this article, you might like to respond to the Shapley Heath survey. This is your chance to make known your concerns about the proposals. We have produced a handy guide with suggestions as to how you might choose to answer the freeform questions. The guide can be found on the download below. The full survey can be found here. The survey closes on 5 July.

Shapley Heath Survey with Suggested Responses
Shapley Heath Survey with Suggested Responses


Hart District Council is exploring the potential to build a new community in the district of up to 5,000 new homes, with associated community facilities, to meet its long-term housing requirements.” This statement, from the introduction to SHGV Community Survey, sums up HDC’s motivation for embarking on a major publicly-funded project which includes a SHGV website, a sophisticated Communications and Engagement Strategy, a SHGV Stakeholder’s Forum with five Thematic Groups and the commissioning of 13 Baseline Surveys on things like Transport, Heritage, Landscape, Flooding and Utilities.

This article makes the case that:

  1. Hart District Council (HDC) has no business undertaking the SHGV project because:
    • It is a blatant attempt to pre-determine Hart’s future development by promoting its preferred strategy over viable alternatives
    • It is not in synchronisation with the Local Plan which should guide all HDC’s planning activities
  2. By failing to consider the trade-offs involved in developing SHGV over alternative development strategies, the results of the SHGV Project in general, and the Community Survey in particular, will be largely invalid.
  3. The SHGV Project is not merely an expensive and misguided attempt at pre-determination. It is also damaging the prospects for regenerating Fleet (and Hart’s other urban centres), which is an Objective of the Local Plan (unlike SHGV)
  4. SHGV is objectively a bad development strategy for Hart (when compared to the alternatives) in terms of sustainability, climate/carbon footprint, and green spaces.


The SHGV Project team explains that the SHGV project is not an attempt at pre-determination because it is subordinate to the Local Plan. The Project team explains that the SHGV conclusions and recommendations will only carry weight if and when the Local Plan is updated to include SHGV, at that therefore the SHGV project is neutral and unbiased.

This argument is wrong for the following reasons:

  • SHGV is in fact the chosen strategy of HDC. HDC is dominated by Community Campaign Hart (CCH) whose primary objective is to save Fleet/Church Crookham from over-development by building a new Settlement in the Winchfield area. This is made clear in many of CCH’s newsletters (available on the CCH website). Here is an extract from the Spring 2012 CCH Newsletter:

We either continue to grow Fleet & Church Crookham outwards (in which case what, realistically, do you do with the traffic?) or we look at a new settlement.  Winchfield is about the only sustainable location for such a new settlement in Hart District.”

  • The Communication and Engagement Strategy for SHGV is heavily biased in favour of SHGV and makes no attempt to present a balanced view of SHGV in comparison to the alternatives. To illustrate this here are some quotes (with my comments in blue):

Use Shapley Heath in communications where possible [to get the public used to the idea that it is going to happen];

Create awareness of what the alternatives might be (sequential development, developments on appeal) [these are bad alternatives – no mention has been made of good alternatives including regeneration of Fleet to make it more attractive and commercially successful];

We want our audience to know why we think it’s the right location to explore [a clear bias in favour of SHGV and against alternative locations such as Rye Common];

Highlight key benefits – a new community with a unique character, green spaces, employment opportunities, retail space, leisure facilities, economic development, new schools, and other critical infrastructure [no mention of Key Disadvantages such as loss of green space, coalescence of towns, lack of growth potential, damage to prospects of Fleet regeneration, increasing housing capacity which would be taken up by Rushmoor and Surrey Heath under the Duty to Cooperate etc];

Be clear about the limited brownfield opportunities in the district [biased in favour of SHGV and ignores the alternative strategies];

Use subject matter experts (like Lord Taylor of Goss Moor) to highlight the benefits of garden communities from experience elsewhere [stressing benefits without acknowledging the downsides].

Failure to Consider Trade-Offs as a part of the SHGV Project

The SHGV project’s stated aim is to conduct an assessment of the potential of SHGV as a means of satisfying Hart’s long-term housing needs. The SHGV project team insists that the project is unbiased and that all alternatives will be properly explored as required by the Local Plan Inspector. However, if that is true, why would the SHGV project not be open about the pros and cons of SHGV when compared to alternative strategies such as alternative sites for a Garden Village and re-generation of Hart’s urban centres? Every alternative strategy will have advantages and disadvantages, and to hide the disadvantages is clearly biased.

Failure to present SHGV in the context of the alternative strategies will invalidate the results of the Community Survey.

SHGV Project is already Damaging the Prospects for the Regeneration of Fleet and Hart’s other urban centres

The Local Plan identifies that Hart does not provide adequate retail and leisure outlets for its residents. As a result, “The outflow of retail expenditure from the District…is relatively high and is likely to remain high in the future”: [Local Plan para 65.]

The Local Plan goes on to identify the cause of this problem: “The main centres in Hart have not kept pace with other centres in the wider area. Other centres have strengthened and improved their offering through investment and development. Failure to invest in the centres will see them continue to fall in the rankings”: [Retail, Leisure and Town Centre Study Part 1 para 2.15].

To provide Hart with adequate retail and leisure outlets the Local Plan states that “The challenge for Fleet specifically will be to secure investment so that it can compete with the comparable towns in neighbouring districts. All the neighbouring towns are subject to regeneration or expansion projects”: Local Plan Para 66

To attract major investment into Fleet an essential first step is to invest in a Masterplan for Fleet which would identify how the residential, employment, leisure, education, transport, and infrastructure needs could be developed in a coordinated way so that Fleet would become a better, greener, more prosperous and more commercially successful town. It is quite extraordinary that HDC has failed in its clear duty to invest in a Masterplan for Fleet (and note that HDC’s investigation into regeneration of the Civic Quarter is not sufficient)

But to make matters worse, by investing solely in the SHGV project, HDC is sending a further clear signal to developers that Fleet is not a priority. So HDC’s claim that the SHGV project is ‘neutral’ and can run in parallel with the Local Plan without damaging the Local Plan objectives is false. HDC has clearly nailed its colours to the SHGV mast, and by doing so it is already significantly damaging Fleet’s future prospects.

SHGV is Objectively a Poor Strategy

SHGV is objectively a poor strategy compared to the alternatives for the following reasons:

  1. It is a well-established fact that larger settlements are more sustainable than smaller ones (because larger settlements have more residential, employment, health and leisure facilities within easy reach of the residents than smaller ones). SHGV is therefore going to generate a larger carbon footprint than a strategy based on re-generating Hart’s existing towns and villages. This should be a critical issue now that HDC has declared a Climate Emergency and has undertaken to ‘put the reduction of CO2 at the front and centre of all policies and formal decision-making.’
  2. SHGV scores badly against several of the Guiding Principles of Garden Villages. In particular:
    • Green Space – Garden Communities should be surrounded by countryside. SHGV will not be
    • Sustainable Scale – This principle includes the ‘capacity for future growth to meet the evolving housing and economic needs of the local area’. SHGV will have very limited geographical scope for future growth
    • Future Proofed – This principle also includes the ‘capacity for future growth’ which SHGV will not have

Coalescence and Conurbation

What's wrong with Shapley Heath - Coalesence

What is wrong with Shapley Heath – Coalesence

This map shows the density of residential housing in the district (based on March 2017 residential address data in 1km squares). Areas which are not coloured in green are countryside (having less than one home per hectare).

Points to note are:

  1. The green areas of urban development clearly show how coalescence has already caused towns like Yateley, Camberley, Farnborough and Aldershot to be merged into a single conurbation
  2. This conurbation already spreads in a continuous thread from the centre of London westwards to the westerly edge of Fleet
  3. At present Fleet, Hartley Wintney, Hook and Odiham are all surrounded by countryside which adds significantly to their character and provides an important leisure amenity. This is what gives the district its rural character
  4. SHGV would merge Fleet, Hartley Wintney, Hook and Odiham a continuous conurbation, in defiance of the Garden Village principles and the Local Plan vision to maintain the rural character of the district

What is Wrong with Shapley Heath: Conclusions

  1. The SHGV Project is not an unbiased exploration of the potential of SHGV. It is an attempt at pre-determination.
  2. SHGV is causing real damage to the Local Plan aim of attracting investment for the re-regeneration of Fleet and other urban centres
  3. The results of the Community Survey will not be valid because no balanced context has been provided on the advantages/disadvantages of SHGV and alternative strategies
  4. SHGV is objectively a poor strategy which does not align with HDC’s Climate Emergency commitment to put the reduction of CO2 at the front and centre of all polices and decision-making
  5. SHGV will cause coalescence between Fleet, Harley Wintney, Hook and Odiham which will significantly damage their character as well as the rural nature of Hart District.


  1. HDC should abandon the SHGV Project and invest instead in a comprehensive Masterplan for Fleet which is an essential first step towards meeting the Local Plan objective to secure funding for Fleet regeneration
  2. Failing a), the SHGV project should provide clear information about the pros and cons of SHGV when compared to the alternative development strategies
  3. Respondents should be encouraged to object to the clear bias of the SHGV Community Survey

Shapley Heath Mapgate: Council map hides the reality

Shapley Heath Mapgate - Coalescence

Shapley Heath Mapgate – Coalescence

They say a picture paints a thousand words. However, sometimes, what’s missing from a picture can tell you more than what’s in it. As you may know, Hart has published a survey about the proposed Shapley Heath Garden Community. There is a map associated with the survey that is published on the dedicated Garden Community website.

Shapley Heath #Mapgate - Heart Shaped Love It

Shapley Heath #Mapgate – Heart Shaped Love It

Note the soft boundaries, the warm orange dots and the attempt to make the boundary heart shaped, so you will subliminally love it. Of course the OS map on which it is based doesn’t include the Edenbrook development on the western Fleet boundary.

To combat this propaganda, Winchfield Parish Council has published some maps of its own, showing the impact of Shapley Heath should it ever go ahead. The first, at the top of this post, shows the potential coalescence with surrounding towns and villages. If they build in the NE zone, it will effectively join Fleet to Hartley Wintney. On the other hand, if they build in the NW, around Murrell Green, then it will coalesce Harley Wintney and Hook. If they build both sides, then effectively, Fleet, Hartley Wintney, Hook and the new town will become a single, large conurbation. We have previously termed this Hartley Winchook.

Shapley Heath Mapgate: Central Land Not Available

Shapley Heath #Mapgate - Central Land Not Available

Shapley Heath Mapgate – Central Land Not Available

The next map shows land ownership in the area of search. The areas in green are under the control of the developers. Land that is potentially available to the developers – presumably not yet under option – is shown in blue. The red zone is land that is not and never will be under the control of the developers. Areas of ancient woodland, shown in brown, cannot be developed either.

As can be seen, there’s vast swathes of land in the area of search that cannot be developed. This means they have to build either in the NW area, the NE area or both. But none of those options allows for a single coherent settlement. All three options lead to coalescence.

Shapley Heath Mapgate: Additional Constraints

Shapley Heath #Mapgate - Physical Constraints

Shapley Heath Mapgate – Additional Constraints

However, the constraints don’t stop there. When you add on the additional environmental items such as the Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINCs) and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), then the area becomes even more constrained. The physical constraints of the high-voltage electricity pylons, the high pressure gas main, the M3, railway line and the former landfill all add further restrictions on what is safe or sensible to develop.


If you display an anodyne map to the general population, they will form one view of the site under consideration. When faced with maps that actually convey real information, then perceptions can change markedly. We wonder why Hart Council aren’t taking more heed of the Inspector’s words when he examined plans for a new town in the same area as part of the Local Plan (our emphasis):

I have a number of fundamental concerns with regard to the soundness of Policy SS3.

There is little evidence to demonstrate that a site can actually be delivered in terms of infrastructure, viability and landownership within the identified AoS.

Policy SS3 is not required for the Plan to be sound and, in light of my comments above, I consider that the most appropriate course of action would be to remove it (along with any other necessary subsequent changes) from the Plan.

I am also mindful that following further work, there can be no guarantee that the evidence would support it as the most appropriate long-term growth strategy or that Policy SS3 would be found sound.

All of these issues are known, yet the Council is pressing on spending money they don’t have, on a project we don’t need and probably won’t work anyway.

Having read this article, you might like to respond to the Shapley Heath survey. This is your chance to make known your concerns about the proposals. We have produced a handy guide with suggestions as to how you might choose to answer the freeform questions. The guide can be found on the download below. The full survey can be found here.

Shapley Heath Survey with Suggested Responses
Shapley Heath Survey with Suggested Responses

Hart Urban Revitalisation is urgently required

Urban Revitalisation - Blackwater

Hart Urban revitalisation is required in Blackwater

We have already written extensively about why Shapley Heath is a bad idea. However we have to acknowledge that, even with the reduced housing requirement that could be delivered by an early review of the Hart Local Plan, we will need to build some extra housing between now and 2040. We strongly believe that much of this housing can be delivered by revitalising our urban centres in Fleet, Hook, Blackwater and Yateley. We support proportionate development in the other parishes.

There’s plenty of sites to consider:

Hook has already made a start. Its Neighbourhood Plan contains a master plan to revitalise the centre of the village. Overall, this will deliver a market square, better traffic management, much improved commercial premises and 8,916 sq m of residential accommodation, perhaps around 130-150 flats.

Hook Revitalisation Master Plan

Hart Urban Revitalisation in action in Hook

There is promising work starting to look at the civic quarter in Fleet. But CCH’s latest newsletter demonstrates that their heart isn’t in it. They claim Fleet isn’t that bad and offer no support for any sort of regeneration.

Hook Parish Council have done it. It’s time for the the other parish/town councils to follow their lead and shame Hart Council into action. Let’s look at the case for revitalising our town centres.

Rationale for Hart Urban Revitalisation

There are four main reasons to focus on urban revitalisation.

  • Enhance the built environment to enrich all of our lives
  • Address the infrastructure funding gaps
  • Hart in general and Fleet in particular is falling behind neighbouring areas
  • Fleet not valued by visitors and business confidence is low

Sensitive revitalisation, taking advice from companies like Create Streets can transform decaying urban centres into attractive places to live, work and play.

There are acknowledged infrastructure funding gaps in the district. These are concentrated in Hook, Fleet and Yateley and Blackwater.

Urban revitalisation Existing Hart Infrastructure Funding gaps

Existing Hart £78m Infrastructure Funding gap

Building a new town at Shapley Heath/ Winchfield won’t address these funding gaps. But, proper revitalisation will beging to address these issues.

Fleet is falling behind neighbouring towns. Farnham, Wokingham, Basingstoke, Aldershot and Farnborough are attracting hundreds of millions of pounds of investment. Hart Council’s curmudgeonly approach is delivering nothing for Fleet or the wider Hart community.

Urban revitalisation - Fleet falling behind neighbouring towns

Fleet falling behind neighbouring towns

And Hart’s own bid for Future High Streets funding found:

  • 88% say Fleet doesn’t meet their retail and leisure needs
  • 52% would not recommend a visit to the town centre
  • 67% think the poor retail offer reflects badly on the town
  • Lack of affordable housing
  • The confidence of local businesses is extremely low, with 44% reporting declining turnover
Urban revitalisation - Fleet not valued by residents and visitors

Fleet not valued by residents and visitors

If we are to address these issues, we must follow Hook’s lead and develop master plans for our other urban centres.

Benefits of Urban Revitalisation

The benefits of going ahead with these ideas would be large and far reaching:

  • Deliver infrastructure to the areas that need it. Budgets will be limited but we should aim for:
  • Improved Fleet station access and cycle paths connecting Fleet centre to the station and Hartland Park
  • Social facilities such as a multi-purpose venue including theatre/cinema and meeting space and an outdoor public event space
  • Improved Health facilities such as a drop-in health centre for physio, mental health and routine nursing
  • Improved leisure such as restaurants and bars to deliver a thriving night time economy
  • Open green spaces within the town centre
  • Commercial – better retail offer and modern offices
  • Housing that people can afford and social housing for those in need

This can be delivered by focusing on creating attractive places, with no more than 4 or 5 storey development.


What is Shapley Heath Garden Village?

What is Shapley Heath

What is Shapley Heath Garden Village?

Shapley Heath Garden Village is a proposal to build up to 10,000 new houses in Winchfield and Hook parishes. If built, it would effectively create a single conurbation joining Fleet, Hartley Wintney and Hook. We have termed this abomination Hartley Winchook. It would virtually obliterate Winchfield as we know it. It is worth noting that earlier very similar proposals would result in around 1,850 houses being built in Hook parish.

Below is a map showing how the proposal fits into the local area.

Shapley Heath in Context

Shapley Heath in Context

The new town would start ~650m west of Edenbrook in Fleet. It would extend west to the Crooked Billet in Hook and be bounded to the north by the A30 & M3 near to St Mary’s Park in Hartley Wintney to the north. It stretches south to the Basingstoke Canal SSSI.

This new town was proposed as Policy SS3 in the Hart Local Plan. It was rejected by the Inspector on the grounds that it wasn’t necessary. Even Hart’s bid for funding said the Garden Community wasn’t required and would be delivered in addition to the Local Plan requirement.

Shapley Heath in addition to Local Plan

Shapley Heath in addition to Local Plan

Hart Council’s bid to the Government for funding to support this proposal included a housing trajectory.

Nightmare in Winchfield - Shapley Heath Winchfield New Town Housing trajectory

Shapley Heath Garden Village/Winchfield New Town Housing trajectory.

Starting in 2023, over the course of the Local Plan period up to 2032, the Garden Village would result in 2,440 unnecessary houses being built.

Scale of Shapley Heath

Scale of Shapley Heath

When completely built out to up to 10,000 houses it would be 5 times the size of Elvetham Heath, ~4 times the size of Hartley Wintney,  around 3 times the size of Hook, and nearly as many houses as Fleet parish.

Shapley Heath: Vision Document 10000 houses.

Shapley Heath: Vision Document 10000 houses

This is the first of our posts showing:

The master page containing all of these posts can be found here. A link is also provided in the navigation at the top of the page.  Please do keep an eye out for further updates and share them with your friends.

The Shapley Heath Garden Village Vision Document can be downloaded below.

Shapley Heath Garden Village Vision Document
Shapley Heath Garden Village Vision Document

CCH Rhetoric Machine Goes Into Overdrive

The CCH Rhetoric Machine went into overdrive at Thursday’s Cabinet. After claiming their untrue statements about Shapley Heath were just rhetoric, they went on to make more spurious claims in the Cabinet meeting (report here). We have produced a short video to tackle the main claims:

Since then , they have produced a defence of their position on Facebook. Below is their post, together with the RHA response in red.

CCH rhetoric machine goes into overdrive

This post is in response to accusations made against CCH Councillors on certain fb pages.

Do they mean us? Surely not.

If you would like to see for yourself what was said and how it was said, please see the link below for HDC’s live streaming of last night’s cabinet meeting and, Paper H relating to the Garden Community that was to be discussed.

Please take the video to 37 minutes to begin at the start of the Garden Community debate.

https://fb.me/HDCLiveStreaming (We believe this link will expire in a few days).


Alternatively, you can read our post, with edited highlights from the meeting here.

CCH have been accused of:

– being rude to members of the public.

Not by us. There are many words we could use to describe CCH’s attitude, but on the night they weren’t particularly rude to anybody.

– being prejudicial towards a new settlement.

Not true. Prejudicial has no meaning in this context. The accusation in the QC opinion is of CCH being of ‘closed mind’ and thus having a predetermined attitude to matters relating to Shapley Heath.

– wanting to build houses Hart doesn’t need.

Well, this is true. Their own Local Plan said that the new town wasn’t required. The inspector agreed and threw out Policy SS3. The Garden Village bid document said the same thing. Yet, they still bid for Government money for an unnecessary Garden Village. Now they have agreed to spend up to £650K to flesh out the plans for it having committed to Government that it would deliver 5,000 homes above local requirements with an indication that there is capacity “…for a development of 10,000 homes…”.

– wanting to build 10,000 new homes.

Up to 10,000 houses is stated both in the bid and the accompanying Vision Document.

We say, we were assertive in demonstrating our reasoning, were reactive to correct misinformation and were defensive, when necessary, of ourselves and, the people we represent.

As you decide for yourself, we would like to draw your attention (see below) to just one member of the public’s statement as it has bearing on one of the accusations made against us (We believe this refers to the RHA statement):-

Rural Hart Association (RHA, made up of 3 predominately Winchfield groups),

Not true. WAG is based in Winchfield. We Heart Hart is based in Hartley Wintney and NE Hants Greens are district-wide. In addition, other Hart-wide groups support RHA. 

state they want to regenerate Fleet Town Centre and, have ‘given developers the Hart Centre’.

True. RHA does want to regenerate Fleet and the other urban centres to keep up with neighbouring towns like Camberley, Aldershot, Farnham and Wokingham. RHA came up with several options for regeneration of Fleet. Hart Shopping Centre was put forward as one of these options to developers by RSH.

They then state that their developers will not carry out any work on this ‘regeneration’ scheme ‘unless HDC takes the Garden Village off the table’.

Not true. The developers won’t invest time and money in urban regeneration when the Council has such an obvious bias towards the new town and clearly no interest in looking at urban regeneration.

Is this prejudicial by residents of Winchfield wanting future development away from them and for it to continue in and around Fleet?

Again ‘prejudicial’ has no legal meaning. Residents aren’t the people who actually make planning decisions, so they can’t be predetermined. Of course, they can oppose proposals they disagree with. The Local Plan itself identifies the decline of Fleet as a key issue, yet the policies to address this are feeble. It is the interests of all Hart residents for the countryside to be preserved and for all of the urban centres of Fleet, Hook, Blackwater and Yateley to thrive. Private money is clearly available to support such schemes as evidenced by the regeneration of Camberley, Farnham, Aldershot and Wokingham.

If you live in Fleet, Church Crookham, Crookham Village, Elvetham Heath and Hook, you will know they’ve seen the majority of urban expansion over the last decade.

Compared to their size, Hartley Wintney and Odiham have also seen big new developments. In addition, Fleet has fallen behind its neighbours in terms of retail, leisure and public amenities. 

Do you ‘really’ want more development tagged on, using existing infrastructure… roads, schools, doctors, station that already cannot cope?

No. A masterplan for all of our urban centres will address these issues and should also deliver infrastructure funding in the places that need it. Remember the infrastructure plans for the new settlement were described by the Inspector as “not of any great substance”. Plus, a new town won’t deliver any new infrastructure for existing settlements. At least urban regeneration would deliver funds for infrastructure in the areas that are already creaking under the strain.

Do you want to live in town where it’s centre is high rise apartment blocks offering no outdoor space for families?

The LSH proposal for the Hart Shopping Centre utilised existing sightlines and in no sense was it “high rise”. Additional regeneration opportunities such as the Civic Campus could also deliver outdoor spaces.

That’s what RHA are proposing for you.

More rhetoric that you shouldn’t take too seriously.

We will look at all options open to us but, CCH want to deliver our future housing needs in a way that is high quality, sustainable and right for the majority of Hart not, just for the few.

But you clearly aren’t looking at anything other than a new settlement. The Paper explicitly rules out looking at alternatives. There is nothing ‘high quality’ about any of the new town proposals delivered so far. For instance, three locations for a secondary school have been proposed. One was next to a mental health unit housing sex offenders, the second was directly on top of a high-pressure gas main and the third was under electricity pylons. And of course, the Inspector threw out the last proposal because he wasn’t convinced it was deliverable.

And, as we have said many times before, reiterated by Councillor “it’s only rhetoric” Radley last night, if we don’t ‘need’ to build more houses then we ‘won’t build any more houses.

The CCH Rhetoric machine is up and running again. The bid to Government committed you to building over and above the local requirement. The new town isn’t needed to meet requirements. So, why are you spending £650K of taxpayers money?

Pale Lane Appeal Quashed

Wates Homes Elvetham Chase (Pale Lane) Development Proposal, near Elvetham Heath and Hartley Wintney, Hart District, Hampshire.

Elvetham Chase aka Pale Lane Appeal Quashed

Some great news emerged on Monday afternoon. The Pale Lane Appeal has been quashed by the Secretary of State. This means there won’t be any development in that location at least up until 2032. The complete decision document can be found here.

The Secretary of State examined a number of of issues in coming to his decision.

The issue that carried the strongest weight was the Hartley Wintney Neighbourhood Plan (HWNP). The Pale Lane site falls partially within the Hartley Wintney Parish. It was not allocated for development within the HWNP and this carried “significant weight”. So, we must thank Hartley Wintney Parish Council on their efforts that saw the Neightbourhood Plan “made” only last month.

Other issues considered included:

  • The emerging Hart Local Plan, which also does not allocate Pale Lane. However, despite being close to being approved only carried “moderate weight”.
  • He also considered that even if Pale Lane were refused, there would still be more than five years land supply.
  • The potential loss of Best and Most Versatile agricultural land was considered “moderate weight”.
  • Sadly, the highways, health, education and quality of life issues raised by the Stop Elvetham Chase group carried no weight.

The now infamous letter from CCH to Ranil wasn’t even mentioned in the report. So, it seems that the fight against Pale Lane was won irrespective of their efforts. However, the letter they wrote has caused them predetermination problems with their pet Shapley Heath project.

It seems the lesson here is to focus on the real planning issues and get Neighbourhood Plans in place if we want to combat further unnecessary and undesirable greenfield development.

Our local MP, Ranil Jayawardena has now come out unequivocally against large scale green field development. This  includes Shapley Heath, Rye Common and West of Hook. He has produced a constituency charter. We ask that you consider signing his charter that can be found here. This complements his call for bold regeneration plans.


Why Shapley Heath is a Mistake

10,000 house new town at Shapley Heath garden village mistake

10,000 Shapley Heath Garden Village mistake

Today we have a guest post, authored by Tristram Cary, chairman of the Rural Hart Association. In it, he explains why the proposed 5-10,000 new town in Winchfield and Hook, called Shapley Heath Garden Village (SHGV) is a mistake.

Shapley Heath Mistake

It seems that most of the discussion about SHGV is based on the mistaken idea that Hart has to meet a fixed housing target which reflects anticipated demand. This is not the case: Hart’s housing target is in fact a compromise between anticipated demand and Hart’s ability to fulfil that demand within the scope of its residents’ reasonable plans for development. SHGV is a great mistake because it is an unnecessary capitulation to the demand for housing at the expense of Hart’s Vision and Objectives. The result will be much higher housing numbers than would otherwise be the case. This is a very important and quite complex issue; I hope that the following notes will help to explain it more clearly.

a) Housing Demand: Hart’s housing demand is not fixed. In fact it is to all intents and purposes infinite because throughout the South of England there is a housing shortage, and anything that we can build in Hart will be immediately taken up, either by the growth of Hart’s current population or by people moving into Hart from outside the district. It’s vital to understand that building SHGV will do nothing to avert the demand for more housing growth in the district. On the contrary, by creating new capacity, SHGV will fuel higher housing targets for the future.

b) Housing Market Area: Hart shares a Housing Market Area (HMA) with Surrey Heath (Camberley) and Rushmoor (Farnborough and Aldershot). We have a Duty to Cooperate with Surrey Heath and Rushmoor which means that we are obliged to help them to meet their housing demand if necessary. Surrey Heath has asked for our help, and they feel justified in doing so because their population density is far higher than ours. Hart has a population of 96,000 in 215 sq km (447 people per sq km). Surrey Heath has a population of 89,000 in 95 sq km (934 people per sq km which is just over twice Hart’s population density). Rushmoor has a population of 96,000 in 39 sq km (or 2456 people per sq km which is five and a half times Hart’s population density). There is a perfectly valid argument that over a few decades Hart should accept a substantial portion of the housing demand from Surrey Heath and Rushmoor until our population density has caught up with theirs.

c) Vision and Objectives: However, in practice the housing target imposed on Hart in the Local Planning process (including the Duty to Cooperate with our neighbouring districts) is balanced by an acknowledgement that Hart has a history, a character and a right for its residents to have a say in its development. The Local Plan public consultations establish the residents’ wishes which are expressed as a Vision and Objectives for the District’s development (see paras 93 and 94 of the Local Plan). It is tempting to dismiss these paragraphs as unimportant ‘boiler-plate’. But in fact they are vital, and they arm the council with the ammunition to defend Hart against the erosion of its current state as a relatively sparsely-populated rural district which wants to maintain its countryside and the character of its towns and villages. Key statements from the Vision and Objectives which establish our desire to maintain our rural nature include the following:


  • In 2032 the District will still be an attractive, largely rural area….
  • Our countryside will be recognised for its importance to the quality of life, as the setting where people live and work, and for its contribution to biodiversity, leisure and recreation.
  • The character, quality and diversity of our natural, built and heritage assets will have been preserved, and where possible enhanced


  • To maintain the separate character and identity of settlements by avoiding development that would result in their physical or visual coalescence.

[Note: The Vision and Objectives did also include the creation of a new settlement which damaged our ability to defend against a higher-than-necessary housing target – but the Inspector ruled that this was unsound and it has now been removed from the Local Plan]

Hart’s position as a relatively rural district means that we are going to be engaged for the foreseeable future in a constant struggle to defend our rural character against the insatiable demand for housing in the South East of England and against the demands of our Duty to Cooperate with the far more densely-populated districts in our Housing Market Area. Our defence depends entirely on our insistence that we choose to be a rural district. We want to preserve our countryside; we want to preserve the character of our towns and villages; we want to avoid coalescence between our towns by preserving countryside between them.

Supporting the development of an unnecessary Shapley Heath Garden Village flies directly in the face of our Vision and Objectives and undermines our defences against urbanisation. SHGV is in effect an urban extension to Fleet, Hartley Wintney and Hook, and makes a nonsense of the Local Plan objective “To maintain the separate character and identity of settlements by avoiding development that would result in their physical or visual coalescence”. It is certain that Rushmoor and Surrey Heath as well as the SHGV developers will use SHGV as a target for future growth, as they explain on page 15 of the SHVG Vision document:

Technical studies undertaken to date suggest that 5,000 homes can be provided and could be delivered through the Local Plan and DPD process. The developers have identified that around 10,000 homes could be delivered at Shapley Heath. Being part of the Garden Community Programme will enable us to carry out further testing through the DPD process and any subsequent Local Plan review to meet the longer-term needs of the District.

In short, Hart District Council has scored a massive own goal by embarking on the SHGV project in the belief that it will take the pressure off developments elsewhere in the district. In fact, SHGV makes it abundantly clear that we are not serious about our Vision and Objectives, and that we are happy to build massive urban extensions which will forever destroy the character and identity of our biggest settlements.