Hart Local Plan examination

Rural Hart Association update

The Rural Hart Association (RHA) has made very good progress over the summer.  The RHA has decided to concentrate its resources on the single issue of regeneration of Fleet town centre.  The RHA set out to demonstrate that it is feasible to regenerate Fleet Town Centre with a mixed-use development (residential, retail and leisure), which would provide housing as well as reviving the commercial viability of Fleet as Hart District’s largest town.

Regeneration of Fleet town centre

Regeneration of Fleet is of vital importance because Hart District Council’s justification for a New Town rests on their assertion that regeneration of Fleet can’t be achieved.
In more detail the argument runs like this:
  • The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requires that  Brownfield sites are used to their maximum potential before building on greenfield land
  • The NPPF also requires that councils regenerate their Town Centres. NPPF paragraph 86 says “Planning policies and decisions should support the role that town centres play at the heart of local communities, by taking a positive approach to their growth, management and adaptation”
  • Hart District Council admits that Hart District is failing commercially (because there is a growing net outflow of retail and leisure spend from the district) and the Local Plan states (paragraph 66) that “the challenge for Fleet will be to secure investment so that it can compete with the comparison towns in neighbouring districts”
  • But Hart District Council has made no attempt to secure the investment needed to regenerate Fleet. When challenged on this at the January council meeting Hart District Council stated that regeneration of Fleet was an “impossible pipe-dream”.
In May, RHA appointed Lambert Smith Hampton to undertake a Design Report to investigate the feasibility of a mixed-use regeneration of Fleet’s Hart Shopping Centre.
This study is now complete and its main conclusions are:
  • Hart Shopping Centre can be regenerated to provide the same retail and parking space, as well as 950 square metres of community space, a multi-screen cinema and 371 flats (of 1, 2 and 3 bedrooms). The whole area would become modern and desirable, and the flats would provide a tremendous boost to the viability of the shopping centre.
  • The flats would be ideal for first time buyers and elderly people because they are close to the shops and the station – the Design Study has allowed for the full 40% affordability provision.
  • The return on investment for the developers looks good, and Lambert Smith Hampton has already generated serious interest from several potential developers. In addition the site owners approve of the scheme and discussions between the site owners and the developers are scheduled for late in the year.
In summary, RHA has demonstrated that Hart’s claim that Fleet cannot be generated is utterly wrong, and has resulted in a Local Plan which condemns Fleet in particular (and the whole Hart in general) to long-term economic decline.

Hart Local Plan – Examination in Public

The Rural Hart Association is now fully prepared to play its part in opposing a New Town at the Examination in Public of Hart District Council’s Local Plan which starts on 20 November.

We hope that on the basis of this Study, the Inspector will rule that the Local Plan is unsound and that he will recommend that the New Town is removed from the Plan and that a large-scale regeneration of Fleet is undertaken instead. The regeneration of Fleet will pave the way for a bright future in which Fleet becomes a modern, vibrant and commercially successful town surrounded by beautiful countryside and rural villages.

Over the next few days Lambert Smith Hampton will submit the Design Study to Hart District Council, and ask the Council to cooperate in its implementation. Lambert Smith Hampton will also submitted the Design Study to the Inspector in preparation for the Inspector’s review of the Spatial Distribution of Housing (Matter 4) and Town Centre and Retail (Matter 10). In parallel some Fleet members of the RHA will submit the Design Study to Fleet District Council, whose Neighbourhood Plan supports mixed-use developments in the Town Centre.

The We Heart Hart blog also provides a full commentary of the progress of the Local Plan and it is well worth reading.

Call for funding

Thank you to all those who have contributed so generously to this work of the RHA so far.  However RHA is still about £8,000 short of the funds that we think we will need for Lambert Smith Hampton to represent us at the Inspection.

The RHA, and I personally, would be very grateful if those who have not yet contributed would now make a donation.  Please make your donation, either

  • via BACS to the Rural Hart Association bank account
    Sort Code:                40 21 27
    Account Number:   11581341
  • or you can send cheques (made payable to The Rural Hart Association) to the Treasurer, Southview Cottage, Heckfield, Hook, RG27 0JY or contact the Treasurer via email.

I think that we have built a very strong case, and I believe that we have a good chance of preserving all of our green fields for many decades to come.

Thank you all for your continuing support.

Tristram Cary
Chairman – Rural Hart Association

CPRE Hampshire meeting

Our Hart & Rushmoor countryside is a valuable resource – is it worth protecting?

CPRE Hampshire has kindly sent an open invitation to Whitewater Valley Preservation Society members to join them

on: Wednesday 24th October 2018 from 7pm

at: Church on the Heath, Elvetham Heath, Fleet, GU51 1 HA.

Join former CPRE Chairman Peter Wain and CPRE Hampshire for an evening of discussion about our countryside and have your say on future campaigns for the area.

Complimentary drink on arrival.

To book your free place, please visit CPRE Hampshire, email admin@cprehampshire.co.ukor call 01962 841897.

CPRE Hampshire is the Hampshire branch of CPRE, the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

WVPS response on Owens Farm

The Whitewater Valley Preservation Society has responded to a renewed public consultation on the Owen’s Farm planning application.  Owen’s Farm is a proposed 700 house development West of Hook.

WVPS objects based on potential negative impacts on the environment of the River Whitewater and its valley.  The Society is concerned about potential impacts on biodiversity, flood risk, landscape and degrading a rural footpath.

Furthermore, the Society is disappointed that Natural England has withdrawn its previous objection.

Respond to Local Plan!

Hart Draft Local Plan Consultation

This post gives guidance on how to respond to the Hart Draft Local Plan (Regulation 18) Consultation. The consultation is open until 5pm on Friday 9th June 2017.  With just two days to go, it is important to send your views in now.

Option 1:  You can find the full version of our suggested response to the consultation here: WVPS responses to Hart Local Plan consultation. Please download the document, edit it into your own words and send to planningpolicy@hart.gov.uk before the deadline.

Option 2:  Alternatively, you may wish to comment using the online form. However please note you will only have 45 minutes and your changes cannot be saved and returned to later.

The draft Local Plan has been heavily criticised by the Campaign to Protect Rural England, We Heart Hart, as well as the Whitewater Valley Preservation Society.

The key points cover the following main areas:

  1. The very high 10,185 housing target, which adds 2,000 houses over the over-inflated 8,022 target outlined in the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (oppose Draft Local Plan paragraphs 77.1, 99-101 and policy SS1)
  2. It is wrong to protect derelict vacant offices from redevelopment (oppose Draft Local Plan paragraphs  125, 126 and policy SS1)
  3. The missed opportunity to regenerate our urban areas, most notably Fleet (oppose Draft Local plan paragraphs 131, 133, 134)
  4. The unnecessary allocation of green field sites to the plan, in particular Murrell Green (oppose Draft Local Plan policies SS1, SC2)
  5. The need to support the policy for Local Gaps (support Draft Local Plan page 48, policy MG6, paragraph 158, particularly those in the Whitewater Valley: x Murrell Green to Hook, xii North Warnborough to Greywell and xiii Odiham to North Warnborough).

You may also challenge the sustainability assessment that ranks Winchfield as the next best green field option (comment on the Sustainability Appraisal page 27 section 8.2).

WVPS response to Local Plan

The Whitewater Valley Preservation Society today publishes its WVPS responses to Hart Local Plan consultation.

Key issues

The Society rejects the draft Local Plan strategy and sites, including that it:

  1. Does not respect the separate character and identity of Hart settlements.
  2. Fails to protect or enhance water quality and ecological status of water bodies. Many of these already fail to meet the standards set by the Water Framework Directive.
  3. Fails to protect or enhance biodiversity by plans to develop on greenfield sites.
  4. Fails to protect and enhance the district’s green infrastructure.
  5. Incorrectly identifies an inflated target of over 10,000 new homes.

Greenfield development

The draft plan will not deliver Hart’s vision for the district to remain an attractive, largely rural area.  The plan does not protect or enhance the character and quality of natural assets.  The proposed greenfield developments fail to enhance the quality of life and sustain the environment.   The Valley of the River Whitewater will be seriously degraded by proposed developments, such as Murrell Green.  This site sits squarely in the middle of the valley.   The draft plan omits measures to protect and enhance the river and its valley.

Inflated housing target

The draft plan incorrectly identifies a target of over 10,000 new homes in order to satisfy an affordable homes target.  There are other means to satisfy the affordable homes target.  These include regenerating Fleet town centre and planning for a more realistic use of existing unused office sites.  The plan forces greenfield developments, which fail to protect and enhance the natural environment.  The greenfield sites selected will have a detrimental impact on, and cause long term erosion of, the rural character of Hart district.  If the housing numbers had not been exaggerated and inflated, the plan would not need Murrell Green with all its problems.

Gaps between settlements

The Whitewater Valley Preservation Society supports policies for gaps between settlements.  Gaps located in the Whitewater Valley include: Murrell Green to Hook; North Warnborough to Greywell; Odiham to North Warnborough.  However the Murrell Green proposed new development will inevitably threaten the coalescence of Hook and Hartley Wintney, despite the proposed gaps.

Natural environment

The draft plan fails to protect the Landscape, Biodiversity and Geodiversity in the sensitive Whitewater Valley.  It also fails to protect the unique ecology of the chalk stream.  Hampshire’s chalk streams are an important habitat at national and international level.  The River Whitewater already fails to meet its Water Framework Directive classification of Good Ecological Status. The developments at North-East Hook and now proposed at Murrell Green will inevitably lead to further deterioration in the river ecology.  Hart District Council must show how the plan’s targets for biodiversity can be met if sites such as Murrell Green are proposed.

The Society concludes that the draft plan appears to set out to undermine the natural environment by over-increasing the built environment.

Rural Hart Association

Whitewater Valley Preservation Society logo

The Whitewater Valley Preservation Society’s Committee has long term concerns about the impact of further development in the countryside of the Valley.

We have therefore  joined with others to form the Rural Hart Association (RHA) to work for a more sustainable long term strategy.  Watch this space for more information about the RHA.  This will include issues you may like to include in your response to Hart’s Local Plan consultation.

Hart Local Plan consultation

Whitewater Valley Preservation Society logo

Hart District Council is currently conducting a consultation on its Draft Local Plan Strategy and Sites 2011-2032.

The emerging Hart Local Plan focuses on new green field sites and proposes a new settlement at Murrell Green in the WhitewaterValley.  In view of the thrust of the emerging Hart Local Plan, and particularly the proposed new settlement, we urge members to respond to the consultation.  The Whitewater Valley Preservation Society will provide guidance on key points to its members.

The consultation is running from 26 April until 5pm on 9 June 2017. The consultation documents and further details are available at www.hart.gov.uk/draft-local-plan. Please use the online survey to provide your feedback.  Alternatively, if you would like to spend more time completing the form, please download a word version of the form, complete and send to Planning Policy at Hart.

Please respond to the consultation in good time before 5pm on Friday, 9th June.