The following is an update from the Chairman of Winchfield Action Group on the Inspector’s examination of Hart’s Local Plan
The Inspector, Jonathan Manning, has written to Hart Council. His letter comes in advance of his full Inspection Report, which is due in the next few weeks. In it, the Inspectors instructs Hart to remove the New Settlement at Winchfield/Murrell Green from the Local Plan. The reason given is that a New Settlement is not required to meet the housing need. This is very good news. The full letter (called EXAM 60) is available here.
Hart District Council remains determined to develop new settlement
However, in announcing this news at the Council Meeting on Thursday, Councillor Cockarill (Planning) said that “The important point here is that the Inspector does not rule out a new settlement option in the future. He recognises our clear aspiration to deliver a settlement to meet our long-term housing needs. He accepts that it would be acceptable for the Plan to retain the Council’s aspirations to plan for long term needs beyond the plan period which could refer to the delivery of a new settlement through potentially either an early or immediate review of the Plan or a subsequent Development Plan Document (DPD).”
In other words the threat of an unnecessary New Settlement has not gone away, and the Council seems as determined as ever to develop a new settlement as soon as possible, as a way to block the regeneration of Fleet and the other urban centres.
In the next phase of our campaign we therefore need to make a convincing case that:
a) the most urgent need for Hart is to regenerate its town centres (especially Fleet). Thus reversing the commercial decline of the whole district.
b) the regeneration of Fleet and the other town centres with mixed-use (residential, retail and leisure) developments has the potential to deliver enough new housing. This obviates the need for any major greenfield developments in the foreseeable future.
And it is not enough to make this case to the Council. We have to convince the general public. Fleet and the other urban centres can accommodate the bulk of the new housing requirement, whilst at the same time becoming more attractive places to live and work.
We need to study the Inspector’s Full Report, once it is available, to see what detailed changes he has recommended to the Local Plan. We will look particularly for policies on Town Centre development (ED5). Once we have done this we will be able to formulate a plan of action to protect our countryside and rural villages.
We have taken an important step forward today. Thank you as always for your support.
Chairman Winchfield Action Group