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.
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.
Hook Action Against Overdevelopment