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Furthermore, the Society is disappointed that Natural England has withdrawn its previous objection.

Deer Park proposal environmental impact

The Whitewater Valley Preservation Society is concerned about potential impacts on the natural environment of a proposal to develop the Deer Park, Odiham.

A renewed application has been submitted to develop the historic Deer Park (Hart planning applications reference 17/03029/FUL).  The Deer Park provides open green space between Odiham, running down towards the River Whitewater as it flows through North Warnborough.

WVPS has made an objection on the basis that, if permitted, this development would harm the natural environment of the River Whitewater and its valley.  Particular concerns expressed by WVPS include the potential adverse impacts on Wildlife and Biodiversity, the quality of the Riverine Environment, Flood Risk and Conservation Areas around the river and its valley.

WVPS AGM on Friday 16 March

The Whitewater Valley Preservation Society held its 2018 Annual General Meeting at Heckfield Village Hall at 6.30 pm.  The packed meeting enjoyed a lively agenda including:

  • Chairwoman’s Welcome
  • Salmon & Trout Conservation UK’s Riverfly Survey – summary of findings
  • Treasurer’s Report
  • General Data Protection Regulations – requirements
  • Rural Hart Association – introduction and key concerns about the Hart District Council Local Plan currently under consultation
  • Election of the Committee
  • Questions from the floor and Any Other Business
  • Guest Speaker – Julian Seaman.

If you are interested in joining our Society please do not hesitate to email ContactUs@WhitewaterValley.org.uk .

WVPS opposes EA Charges

The Whitewater Valley Preservation Society has published its response to the Environment Agency’s consultation on its charges.

The River Whitewater is failing to meet Good Ecological Status (GES) under the Water Framework Directive (WFD).  As a direct result WVPS has raised funds to carry out a study into the Whitewater in the context of the Salmon and Trout Conservation UK’s River Fly Study.  The survey was conducted at five sites along the river, in both spring and autumn. Results from the first year reveal that all sites fail on both of two indicators of a healthy system.  Significant effort will be required to make improvements to the river’s ecology.  The type of work likely to be required will be directly affected by the proposed increase in charges for river works.  As a result, it will deter organisations such as WVPS from being able to carry out the works and thereby will effectively further damage, or at least fail to improve, the river ecology.

WVPS therefore objects to the scale of the Environment Agency’s proposed increases for charges for permits to carry out habitat improvement works in our local rivers.

There are many community groups, river trusts, wildlife groups and societies such as ours who, with limited funds, are currently making a real and important contribution towards improving rivers and streams and the implementation of the Water Framework Directive on failing water bodies.  The work of these groups is not recognised in the assumptions behind the revised proposed charges.

The proposed charges are extortionately high – far too great reasonably to expect small organisations to pay, especially for small scale community based work relying on charitable funding and volunteer labour.

The charges imply that there will be financial gain from river improvement.  This is simply not true for the projects, which organisations such as ours wish to undertake.  The benefit is to the wider ecology, to society, and to meet Water Framework Directive objectives.  This is work, which the EA itself should be undertaking or at least funding, to meet Water Framework Directive targets.

Read WVPS full response here:

EnvironmentAgencyCharges_WVPSresponse

 

Environment Agency Charges

The Environment Agency (EA) is currently consulting on proposals to change its permit charges. The EA proposes to increase significantly the cost of applying for Environmental Permits for, amongst other reasons, habitat improvement work in rivers.

As part of  the Loddon Fisheries and Conservation Consultative (LFCC), the Whitewater Valley Preservation Society shares their disappointment with these proposals.  The LFCC states:

“This type of work is regularly carried out by volunteers or small organisations working on shoestring budgets. The schemes are often funded by small grants which sometimes prohibit the use of the grant to cover costs such as permit application. Even when allowable, the charges could swallow up as much as 25% of the grant.

Yet the aims of these projects are typically to improve riverine habitats for fish and other wildlife, enhance diversity and to reduce flood risk. This fully supports EA policy objectives including the achievement of good qualitative and quantitative status of all water bodies under the Water Framework Directive (WFD). The projects give a valuable opportunity to engage the wider community in the planning and implementation of schemes.

These increases are likely to have a number of potential affects including:

  • reduced number of projects
  • reduced value / impact of projects
  • increased likelihood of unregulated work
  • hamper ‘on the ground’ relations of front-line EA staff
  • de-motivate the enthusiasm of volunteers

This could result in increased habitat degradation, reduced flood and drought resilience, all compromising the EA’s ability to meet those WFD targets.

The effects of the proposed changes could have been mitigated by a much needed revision of the poorly drafted permit exemptions, but we have been advised that this is outside the scope of the consultation and not currently under consideration.

The LFCC is generally very supportive of the EA and we hugely value the work of some very well motivated and talented local staff, who we feel deserve far more support than can be given in the current economic climate. However despite appreciating the financial restraints that the EA are currently encountering we feel that these proposals are hardly an appropriate route to raise capital.”

Further reaction and advice for making responses is provided by The Angling Trust.

We encourage as many individuals as possible to reply to the Environment Agency Consultation, which closes on January 26th.

Both the Whitewater Valley Preservation Society and the LFCC will be lodging formal objections to the scale of the proposed increases. We will publish the WVPS response on our website as soon as possible.

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.