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Riverfly Census Report

Salmon & Trout Conservation issues report and conclusions from its three-year River Census project 

“The Riverfly Census Report has been central to S&TC’s work for the past three years. It coincides with the United Nations’ recent statement on the catastrophic state of the global environment. The results should worry everyone. Our message is simple; unless there is radical change our rivers will soon become lifeless. With ever increasing public interest in environmental health there is a desire for real change. Government must use this opportunity to incentivise businesses to place the protection of our rivers, wild fish and all other water-dependent life at the centre of what they do.”

Paul Knight, Chief Executive, Salmon & Trout Conservation

Milestone Salmon & Trout Conservation study reveals that sediment, sewage and commercial salad washing, are causing dramatic declines of keystone aquatic invertebrate life throughout England’s lifeblood rivers

Salmon & Trout Conservation (S&TC) initiated The Riverfly Census to collect high-resolution, scientifically robust data about the state of our rivers and the pressures facing them.

To download the full report: click here

The Riverfly Census highlights worrying declines of aquatic insects in English rivers as a direct consequence of industrial, agricultural and domestic pollution.  Aquatic insects are the equivalent of “the canary in the coal mine” when ascertaining the health of individual rivers. Declines of up to 58% in some species have been observed in the last thirty years, with no sign of the trend reversing.

Three-year high-resolution study, the Riverfly Census, employed standardised monitoring of aquatic invertebrate life in key English rivers to reveal dramatic changes in water quality and ecosystems

The Riverfly Census data provides an overview of how pollution affects a particular river. The aquatic insect community is shaped by the quality of the water at each sample point. Scientists then decode this bug-based information. Armed with these biological snapshots, we are able to zoom in on particular problems and if necessary, carry out further invertebrate or chemical sampling.

Lauren Mattingley, S&TC Scientific Officer, added:

“It is an often-overlooked fact that invertebrates essentially run our planet. They make up the majority of species on earth and sustain all life. Aquatic insects are invaluable in unlocking the true story of water quality in our rivers. Much of the pollution threatening our waters is subtle and invisible to the naked eye. By looking at what species were there, and which are missing, for the first time we have been able to truly quantify the invisible stressors deteriorating water quality throughout England.”

Urgent action from Government and the Environment Agency is required to protect keystone aquatic invertebrate life in English river ecosystems to prevent further declines.

S&TC attribute the root cause for the majority of aquatic insect declines to:

  • increased levels of Phosphorus (emanating predominantly from sewerage systems)
  • deposition of fine sediment (the result of poor management of agricultural soils) and
  • an overwhelming array of chemicals entering rivers (including flushing of pesticides from imported salad leaves)

Nick Measham, S&TC Freshwater Campaigns Manager, commented:

Much of the scientific work done by or on behalf of S&TC is complex, detailed and unspectacular.  The results can take years to collect and interpret – but this is the heart of what we do, as, without the evidence, those who damage our waters cannot be challenged.”

Exacerbating the crisis facing the health of our rivers is a framework of weak environmental regulations. Too often these fail to address real world issues, such as the concurrent release of chemicals and their cumulative effects. When combined with a long-standing culture of apparent light touch enforcement, the existing regulatory framework is wholly failing to offer adequate protection.

Diminished regulatory resources and outdated monitoring approaches are also likely to be hiding the true extent of harmful emissions in river ecosystems. Only with robust long-term monitoring in the mode of the Riverfly Census can we truly understand the changes occurring in our freshwater habitats. The Riverfly Census has started to address the lack of widespread, high resolution benchmarking but considerably more work now needs to be undertaken.

Dr. Janina Gray, S&TC Head of Science & Environmental Policy:

“The evidence is clear; our rivers urgently need our help. Current regulation and management are not managing to halt the frightening decline of aquatic insects, let alone reverse it. Our freshwater fish and invertebrates are being choked by fine sediments which should be on fields, not in rivers, and are subjected to chemical cocktails we don’t understand or monitor. If we want our children to be able to watch wild trout rising, a mayfly hatch emerging or a kingfisher feeding, the time to act is now.  This degradation is happening now, under our noses and on our watch. It is time for all of us to take action.”

Salmon & Trout Conservation is calling for action at the national level and is making a series of policy recommendations:

  • Further investigations into the biological impact of phosphorus spikes. Without this work, the validation that discharge permits, based on an annual average of monthly samples, are providing for the protection of our rivers is highly questionable.
  • Chalkstreams should have their own classification targets within the Water Framework Directive (WFD).
  • Establish a standardised approach to monitoring fine sediment in our rivers and set appropriate river specific standards.
  • Develop a national programme of species-level monitoring to provide the resolution required to detect pressures such as excess phosphates, sediment and damaging chemicals, and the benchmarking on which to make informed decisions.
  • Include SPEAR analysis in River Basin Management Planning within WFD, to allow the biological impacts of chemicals to be assessed alongside other pressures, and requirements for additional supplementary chemical monitoring prioritised where necessary.
  • Ensure the environmental protection offered by European legislation is transposed into and implemented through UK law, including the creation of Water Protection Zones where existing measures fail to protect water quality and river ecology.
  • A review of discharge permit guidance to include measures to assess the cumulative and legacy impacts of multiple chemicals within the discharge.
  • All chalkstreams to have bespoke invertebrate targets to drive forward improvements, whilst WFD classification targets are being developed.

Issued by Corin Smith comms@salmon-trout.org (07463 576892) on behalf of Salmon and Trout Conservation. For more information please contact janina@salmon-trout.organd nick@salmon-trout.org on 01425 652461

Reporting with a purpose

S&TC is a national organisation and we use evidence from local case studies to help instigate policy changes that will benefit UK wild fish populations. But, this is just part of the value. We are making all our Riverfly Census findings available so they can be used to inform local management and drive action.

Each individual river report is based on three years of surveying data. Where possible, we have linked up our findings with other existing literature and data. Using the available information we suggest where local fishing and/or conservation groups can focus their management efforts to achieve the best health outcomes for each of the 12 original Census rivers.

S&TC’s local reports can be found by visiting the Riverfly Census page and scroll down to the map.

North Warnborough objection

19/00543/FUL Albion Yard – Objection to proposal for development

Any development on this site must be sympathetic to the special nature of the environment, related as it is to sites of special scientific interest (SSSI).

The River Whitewater, a ‘Main River’, is a chalk stream, which is rare and important at international level.  The River Whitewater flows north of the proposed development site in a north easterly direction. An unnamed tributary of the River Whitewater flows in an easterly direction through the land to the west of the site. It turns to follow a northerly route approximately 70m north west of the site. It discharges into the River Whitewater near Mill Corner. The River Whitewater is a Site of Interest to Nature Conservation (SINC) throughout its length and includes stretches of SSSI. The Basingstoke Canal, which is also a SSSI, is located along the southern boundary of the site.

According to the findings of the Environment Agency, the River is failing to meet ‘Good Ecological Status’ as required under the Water Framework Directive.

The Flood Risk Assessment provided for this proposed development is out of date, despite the propensity of the site for flooding. Flood risk resulting from the loss of land to absorb and channel waters from the River Whitewater flood plain requires very careful and partial use of the site for development, as indicated in the Neighbourhood Plan. In addition, surface run-off from building infrastructure on this site would flow into the River Whitewater, likely to affect further the ecological status of the River.

The principle of biodiversity enhancement in the adjacent field is welcome.  However detailed input from a qualified ecologist is required to turn the proposed plan into practice that will deliver a net gain for biodiversity. This should be secured through a full Landscape and Ecological Management plan for the future, which includes a landscape buffer as indicated in the Odiham and North Warnborough Neighbourhood Plan.

The plans are not aligned with the Odiham and North Warnborough Neighbourhood Plan, which protects the setting of neighbouring listed properties by the provision of a significant open space at the North end of the field.

In summary, the proposed development affects the landscape characteristics of the North Warnborough Conservation area. The development as proposed does not adhere to the Odiham and North Warnborough Neighbourhood plan, specifically policies 2 iv, 7 and 12.

For and on behalf of the

Whitewater Valley Preservation Society

Update from Hook

This is an update from Hook Action Against Over-development

Owen’s Farm, west of Hook

The Appeal for the 700 home development at Owen’s Farm to the west of Hook opened on 19th March.  Hart District Council and residents stated their case to the Planning Inspector.  Then, on day 4, the developer withdrew their appeal before even presenting their own case!

Hook Action Against Over-development, Parish Councils, Whitewater Valley Preservation Society and individual residents made their representations in writing and in person.  The developer then realised what we already knew to be true.  There was absolutely no justification for their application, let alone their appeal.  So one might ask why did they even go to appeal against the refusal of planning permission if their case was so weak?  They had attempted to hoodwink everyone that the plethora of issues with the application were resolved.  They tried to push through their appeal before the Hart Local Plan and Hook Neighbourhood Plan had been adopted, which would formally block out this site for residential development.  But we knew there were still significant issues and brought them all to the fore.

The developer made the withdrawal conditional on each party paying their own costs.  Hart and the other participants fighting the appeal decided that this was acceptable.  The costs incurred so far were worth swallowing in order to halt the proceedings there and then.  Rather than extending the appeal, incurring more costs and risking an adverse result, even though we believed that their chances of success were slim.  Given the massive imbalance of spending on the appeal, making them swallow their own costs and their failure to realise a return on their investment on the whole venture ensures that there was a big financial penalty to them withdrawing the appeal.

With the Hart Local Plan and the Hook Neighbourhood Plan at advanced stages now, another application for development on this site should not be feasible until at least 2032.  The same access, transport and landscape issues are likely to apply then.  So it would be a brave developer who would chance an application.  There will be a review of progress on housing delivery in 4 or 5 years.  If Hart are under-delivering it is possible the Plan may need to be revised, but we hope that even then this site would be unattractive for all the existing reasons.

The issue of the Common Land and Village Green applications still needs to be resolved.  We have already written to the relevant department at the Planning Inspectorate pointing out that they are now not necessary because development here is not going ahead and therefore the applications should be refused, if they are not withdrawn first.  We are following up on loose ends to try to protect against this development proposal returning.

Hook Neighbourhood Plan

The fact that the Hook Neighbourhood Plan had by the time of the Inquiry been submitted to Hart for formal review was a considerable factor in itself.  The Neighbourhood Plan still needs to be formally adopted by a public vote, once reviewed by Hart.  We need to get it formally adopted so that it has full planning weight as soon as possible.

Thank you

We have already received over a hundred messages of thanks by email and on Facebook.  Whilst we are sorry we can not reply to everyone individually, we would like to say thank you to everyone for your support.  It feels like Hook has been under assault for the past 5 years and of course major expansion of the village is already underway.  Hopefully we can now pause for a breath and welcome the new residents who are coming into Hook to join us in making a life here.  We know we are lucky to live here for all the practical reasons that make Hook a great place to live, for the proximity to the countryside that we have fought hard to protect, and of course mainly for the great people we have as friends and neighbours in the village.

With this being our biggest victory to date, on a personal note I would like to give a huge thanks to all those in HAAO who have worked tirelessly on the defence of Owen’s Farm and on the other battles we have both won (Hop Garden Road) and lost (North East Hook and others) over the last 5+ years. So thank you all.

This would also not have succeeded without everyone acting as a team.  So thank you to the Parish Council and Neighbourhood Plan group for all their help and support.  Not forgetting Whitewater Valley Preservation Society, Newnham Parish Council and of course, all the residents of Hook and Newnham who planned and carried out surveys, leafleting, posters, banners and publicity.  We also want to thank everyone who worked on the previous successfully defended Hop Garden Road refusal, including the Planning Inspector then, Mr Schofield, who accepted that the local gap to Newnham was of considerable value to both villages.  His decision then underpinned our case this time too.  Thank you to the Hart planning team who worked with us on this case, the Hart councillors who finally pushed through a Local Plan to a stage where it can help defend against speculative development.  Also to Basingstoke and Deane for having a Local Plan in place covering Newnham.

Finally thank you and good luck to those other groups from across Hart who have joined with us while fighting their own battles against urban extensions.  Many other people have provided direct and indirect help to us, thank you all.

Dermot Smith
Hook Action Against Overdevelopment

Owens Farm west of Hook

Update from Hook Action Against Overdevelopment

Stop Owens Farm – West of Hook

The developer is appealing against Hart’s refusal of the Owens Farm planning application for 700 dwellings.  The appeal hearing starts on Tuesday 19th March.

Hook Action Against Overdevelopment invited Whitewater Valley Preservation Society to speak at the appeal against this development, because of the strength of our previously submitted objection.

We want to show the Planning Inspector the enormous level of dismay and concern at this application.

You can help do this in two ways:

  • Attend part of the appeal hearing
  • Display the poster above (click it to view & print)

The appeal starts at 10am on Tuesday 19th March in the Council Chamber at the Hart District Council offices, Harlington Way, Fleet GU51 4AE.  Parking is available in the Victoria Road car park.

The hearing will run until Friday 29th March, although likely to exclude Monday 25th March.  We urge you to attend whenever you have a chance.  You can come and go as you like during the hearing.  A large representation on the first morning will make the greatest impression on the Inspector.

The inspector will probably visit Hook on Monday 18th March and make other visits during the appeal.  She will not only visit the site but also other parts to fully appreciate the implications on Hook as a whole.  Thank you in anticipation of your help in trying to get this appeal refused.

We would also like to take this opportunity to say a very big thank you!  We have seen objections from over 310 people to the applications to deregister part of Jubilee Green / carry out restricted work on Hook Common.  A great result – thank you!

So what can you do now?

  • Attend parts of the Owens Farm Inquiry – from Tuesday 19th March, 10am. It really will help!
  • Print out the poster using the link in the email and display it in your window or at the front of your property.
  • Continue to watch out for and let us know about any signs of environmental, wildlife and traffic surveys or other indications of any developments around the village.
  • Please continue to spread the word about Hook Action Against Overdevelopment.  Encourage family, friends and neighbours to register for these updates at hookdevaction.org.uk/subscribe and follow us on Facebook.

Inspector rejects new settlement

The following is an update from the Chairman of Winchfield Action Group on the Inspector’s examination of Hart’s Local Plan

Dear Supporters

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.

Next steps

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.
Tristram Cary
Chairman Winchfield Action Group

Report incidents to Environment Agency

Environment Agency incident hotline
Telephone: 0800 80 70 60
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Please call the Environment Agency incident hotline to report:

  • damage or danger to the natural environment
  • pollution to water or land
  • poaching or illegal fishing
  • dead fish or fish gasping for air
  • main rivers blocked by a vehicle or fallen tree causing risk of flooding
  • flooding from any river, stream, canal, natural spring or the sea
  • incidents at Environment Agency-regulated waste sites
  • illegal removals from watercourses
  • unusual changes in river flow
  • collapsed or badly damaged river or canal bank.

Hook Road development

Land East of Hook Road, North Warnborough

 < Before      After >

Hart planning application 19/00069/FUL

The Whitewater Valley Preservation Society registers its objection on behalf of our members to the above application. The Society believes the proposed development would have a detrimental impact upon the Whitewater Valley and would damage the rural character of the valley.

We wish to identify the risks to the River Whitewater from water courses, including a tributary of the River Whitewater which crosses the site, which run into the Whitewater and are already subject to flooding.

Conservation Areas, SSSI and SINC

The development as proposed would adversely affect two Conservation Areas – those of North Warnborough & Basingstoke Canal – and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), the Basingstoke Canal.

The proposed development raises issues regarding the rich biodiversity and ecology of the SSSI and the historic landscape, contrary to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) paragraph 109.  As required by the Environment Agency and the Ecological Appraisal provided, a 10m buffer zone – which is free from lighting and domestic gardens and landscaping – must be implemented. The Society objects to a link road between the two halves of the site, which intrudes on what should be an undeveloped buffer zone, and is a footpath in the neighbourhood plan.

The Society also objects to the proposed layout, which would develop a suggested undeveloped area identified in the Odiham & North Warnborough Neighbourhood Plan, which would help preserve important views across the site from the Basingstoke Canal.

The River Whitewater is an identified Site of Interest for Nature Conservation (SINC) and is already failing to meet Good Ecological Status (GES) as identified by successive Riverfly Censuses commissioned by the Society. As GES is required to be met under the Water Framework Directive, there is a real concern that additional pollution will inevitably result if the application as proposed were to proceed in addition to already granted development at the Chilli Pad and being sought to the rear of Castle Bridge cottages. The GES status is not recorded when considering Water Quality in the Flood Risk Assessment and Drainage Statement.

Flood risk

Neighbouring residents have submitted copious evidence and case studies, which demonstrate the existing surface flood risk experienced regularly on this site and surrounding lower elevation sites adjacent which include many listed buildings. These flood events are not recorded in the Historical Flooding report in the Flood Risk Assessment and Drainage Statement provided by the developer.

Moreover, this development raises issues regarding the structural integrity of the Canal, which can only further increase the risk of major flooding events on a site that is lower than the canal and undercuts its 225 year old structure.

Climate change will further increase the flood risk as we expect more frequent and severe storm events. The Environment Agency guidance recommends +70% for peak riverflow allowances for the Thames River Basin, in which the River Whitewater is situated, over the lifetime of the development.

Conclusion

The Flood Risk Assessment and Drainage Statement provided by the applicant is inadequate for a sensitive site in the flood plain of the River Whitewater.

All the above matters and environmental impacts are exacerbated by the applicant continuing to propose substantially more houses for the site than the Odiham & North Warnborough Neighbourhood Plan proposed.

Further information

Please see the attached leaflet, produced by local residents.

Objection flyer Final2 small

AGM notice

Annual General Meeting

The Whitewater Valley Preservation Society is pleased to announce it will hold its Annual General Meeting on Friday 8th March 2019 at 6:30 p.m. at Heckfield Village Hall, RG27 0LG.

Agenda

A. Chairman’s Welcome

B. Reports on the Society’s work re the River and Local Development

C. Questions from Members will be welcome

D. Our guest speaker this year is Edward Bullen, Cambridge graduate, Yachtsman and Banker, who lives in the Whitewater Valley.  Edward will give a brief talk entitled “Trafalgar, the other Admirals”. This will include some lesser-known and fascinating information.

RSVP

We look forward to seeing you at this free evening for members, £10 for guests.

Members can return the RSVP slip with their membership fee for 2019.  Suggested membership subscription is £25 or £30.  All subscriptions are gratefully received; the subscription covers Members for two functions per annum, in addition to work being done by the Society.

Cheques should be made payable to the Whitewater Valley Preservation Society. Subscriptions should be sent to:

Mrs Sally Bullen,
Borough Court Farm,
Hartley Wintney,
Hampshire RG27 8JA

Alternatively, please email WVPS at ContactUs@WhitewaterValley.org.uk to notify us of your name and how many members and guests will be attending.  If you are applying for membership please remember to include your address and email address.

Examination of Hart’s Local Plan

WVPS supported the Rural Hart Association in opposing the proposal from Hart District to include in the new Local Plan a “New settlement” in the Winchfield/Murrell Green area.  Murrell Green sits on the River Whitewater.

This is a report on the Examination of Hart’s Local Plan from Tristram Cary of the Rural Hart Association

Dear Supporters
The 10 day Examination-in-Public of the Local Plan finished just before Christmas, and the Inspector, Jonathan Manning, is now writing up his report which is due to be delivered to Hart sometime in February.
It is hard to predict what the Inspector’s report will recommend, because he made a point of digging into the evidence without drawing conclusions – and he warned us all several times NOT to jump to conclusions based on his line of questioning. However, on balance we think the Examination went well from the point of view of the Winchfield Action Group and the Rural Heart Association. Below are some of the key points that have a bearing on the New Settlement and Green Field development generally:

General

The Inspector, Jonathan Manning, was very thorough and fair. He had done his homework, and was quick to detect flannel and to insist on accurate answers to his questions. But he also found time to let everyone have their say. I think we can be confident of a fair report. The Rural Hart Association was invited to participate in Matter 3 (Housing: The Objectively Assessed Need), Matter 4 (Housing: Spatial Distribution) and Matter 10 (Retail and Town Centres). RHA was represented by Mark Dodds (Director of Planning and Development at Lambert Smith Hampton) and me. Winchfield Parish Council and their consultants were invited to participate in most of the twelve Matters, so between us we were able to represent the interests of rural Hart across the whole spectrum of the Local Plan.

Matter 1: Legal Requirements

The Inspector pushed Hart hard to demonstrate that their Sustainability Appraisal was adequate to justify the Local Plan and, in particular, the choice of Murrell Green/Winchfield over alternative sites for a New Settlement. The Inspector did not seem to be impressed with Hart’s response, and if he finds the Sustainability Assessment unsatisfactory then this is likely to lead to a recommendation for significant changes to the Local Plan (see conclusions below), or a significant delay while the Sustainability Appraisal is re-worked.

Matter 3: Housing Numbers

There was a fairly even split between those who want the housing numbers to be higher (mostly the developers) and those who want them to be lower (those who oppose building on greenfield sites and want to keep Hart rural). It’s hard to predict what the Inspector will recommend, but probably not a substantial change to Hart’s recommendation of 388 new dwellings per annum for the plan period.

Matter 4: Spatial Distribution of Housing

This was a key session where Hart’s decision to commit to a New Settlement in Winchfield/Murrell Green came under severe pressure from the Inspector who asked how Hart could possibly commit to a specific site when there was no satisfactory evidence that the plan was ‘deliverable’ or that the site was better than any alternative site. Hart’s defence was basically that the New Settlement strategy (SS3) was not yet a plan for a New Settlement, but just a strategy to find a New Settlement within the Winchfield/Murrell Green area of search. But this seemed to cut no ice with the Inspector who said that if there was as yet no site for the New Settlement then it was even less possible for Hart to know that it was a better site than any of the alternatives.

Matter 10: Retail and Town Centres

In this session we (RHA) were able to make our case that the regeneration of Fleet and the other urban areas with mixed-use (residential, retail and leisure) developments could provide a significant number of new houses (over 1000 in Fleet Town Centre) and at the same time reverse the long-term decline of Fleet as a vibrant and commercially-successful town centre (a trend which Hart acknowledges in the Local Plan). We were further able to demonstrate that such mixed-use developments could attract private investment (based on the response of developers to RHA’s plan to regenerate the Hart Shopping centre). And finally we stressed that Hart’s premature committment to a New Settlement was a barrier to the regeneration of Fleet (because developers are reluctant to invest in regeneration schemes which are not actively promoted by the Council in the Local Plan). I am sorry to say that the Inspector did not grill Hart very hard about their failure to provide a convincing plan to regenerate Fleet or the other urban centres. Nor did he clearly acknowledge that the plan for a New Settlement (which is not needed in the Plan Period) would be a barrier to regenerating Fleet (which Hart accepts is needed in the Plan Period). However, he did challenge Hart to justify why their policy to regenerate Fleet was so short on substance, and why it excluded the possibility of residential development. And he also asked Hart to include the consideration of residential development in the plan for Fleet (ED5).

Matter 11: Infrastructure

The Infrastructure session was important for RHA’s cause because the Inspector questioned whether Hart’s Infrastructure Development Plan demonstrated a sound understanding of the infrastructure costs of the Plan, and in particular the plan for a New Settlement in the Winchfield/ Murrell Green area of search. Hart had to fall back again on the mitigation that the infrastructure costs of SS3 could not be known at this stage because the site of the New Settlement was still unknown within the area of search. This allowed the Inspector to ask again how, if the infrastructure costs were unknown, Hart could know whether a New Settlement in the Winchfield/Murrell Green area was a better proposition then the alternatives.

Conclusions

We have been warned by the Inspector not to try to predict the recommendations that he will make in his report and so we will not do so. However, based on our discussions with Lambert Smith Hampton and the other attendees, we think the following notes are relevant:
  • The Inspector clearly feels that SS3 is too prescriptive (when the quality of supporting evidence is so poor). So his recommendations are likely to soften the categorical nature of SS3 (“Permission will be granted for a New Settlement in the Winchfield/Murrell Green area of search” etc).
  • The Inspector is also concerned that the plan for Fleet is not ‘positively prepared’ and does not include any provision for residential development. It is possible that the Inspector will recommend that a proper ‘Masterplan’ for Fleet should be developed as a high priority, so that the potential of Fleet for residential development can be assessed before (or at least in parallel with) planning for a New Settlement
  • The Inspector asked Hart at several points in the Examination whether it would be practical to delay the decision to embark on a New Settlement until the first review of the Local Plan at the five year point (c. 2024) or even, if necessary, to bring forward the review by a couple of years to say 2022.  Based on the Inspector’s serious concerns about the quality of the evidence justifying a New Settlement in the Winchfield/Murrell Green area, it seems possible that the Inspector may recommend that any commitment to a New Settlement should be removed from the Plan at this stage, and reviewed after a few years.
  • A delay to the decision about the New Settlement for a few years may not sound like much of a result, but it would be a significant step forward, especially if the delay was linked to a requirement to assess the regeneration of Fleet (and the other urban centres) as an alternative source of new housing. A delay would also put pressure on Hart and Fleet Town Council to accept the growing realisation across the UK  that mixed-use redevelopment of Town Centres is the best way to reverse their decline.
We must now wait and see what the Inspector’s report recommends. But in the meantime, Fleet Town Council’s plan to build a new Theatre complex on Gurkha Square (to replace the Harlington Centre) has been withdrawn as a result of Fleet residents’ strong objection to funding the theatre out of Council Tax for the next thirty or forty years. This represents a good opportunity for Fleet residents to a) put pressure on Hart and Fleet Town Council to recognise that developers are prepared to fund leisure facilities as part of a mixed-use residential development and b) to encourage the Council to back the scheme to redevelop the Hart Shopping Centre (which includes a commercial cinema).
I am very grateful for the generous contributions that so many of you have made towards the Design Study for the Regeneration of Fleet. A summary of the Design Study is here, but please let me know if you want to see the full report – it’s too bid to attach to this email without causing a lot of delivery failures. The Design Study has demonstrated convincingly that Fleet can be regenerated without taxpayers support with mixed-use developments which would provide additional affordable homes, improved retail facilities, extra public spaces and leisure facilities. Furthermore, Lambert Smith Hampton has now had two expressions of interest from developers who would like to invest in the proposal, but only if Hart’s Local Plan is modified to express a commitment to working with developers to bring forward such a scheme.
Thank you for your continued support.
Tristram Cary
Chairman
Rural Hart Association

Hook neighbourhood plan

The Whitewater Valley Preservation Society fully supports the village of Hook’s draft neighbourhood plan.

WVPS has submitted its recommendations to strengthen further Hook’s neighbourhood plan, particularly with regard to how it protects – and could enhance – the Environment and Landscape.

We feel these are important recommendations to consider, particularly in the light of the proximity of Hook’s north-east development currently underway, which is only separated from the River by a modest strip of what is referred to as “Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space” (SANG).