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Community News
The Newsletter of the Community Campaign (Hart)
Issue 12, Spring 2012

Strategic Planning

There has been much press coverage about the controversy which has resulted from a move by a number of land owners around Winchfield to offer their land for consideration as sites for housing in Hart’s Local Development Framework (LDF). When adopted the LDF will be a binding document which is supposed to specify the strategic development sites in Hart for the next 20 years.

The LDF is itself controversial and despite an overwhelming negative response from public consultation, it still seeks to build an additional 700 new homes on the green fields north of Crookham Village. However grim this seems, it appears likely that the situation will get worse as the government’s new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) looks set to substantially increase the number of new homes that will have to be built in Hart over the next 20 years.

It seems unlikely that the main political parties on Hart Council will be able to go against the new housing targets being imposed by their government. However, you might think that a fundamental shift in housing numbers should lead to a major reassessment of the 20 year housing strategy. After all the whole point about the LDF taking a 20 year view, is so that a strategic approach to planning can be taken, to ensure that the necessary infrastructure is also delivered.

Alas, there is no sign of common sense at work within the ruling group at Hart. Instead, they want to compress the 20 year plan into a 10 year plan and build houses at double the previous projected rate. Then after 10 years, they no doubt intend to come up with another short term 10 year plan.

A 10 year plan is not just cowardice (putting off having to consider the unthinkable) but it also throws away the opportunity to think strategically. This leads to the sort of ill-thought out planning that has left Fleet & Church Crookham with congested roads and Crookham Village suffering as a rat run.

Imagine you need to build some 8,000 new houses in the next 20 years (as may be required by the NPPF). You could at one extreme have a 1 year plan and re-think it each year. You would need to plan for 400 homes each and every year but at this level you would not have the critical mass to allow you to build a new community with decent road access and new schools. Therefore the only option open to you is to tag them onto the edge of the existing urban area. The next year you are in the same position and so you end up growing ever outwards with ever more inadequate infrastructure and no overall strategy.

The Conservative group at Hart want a shorter term 10 year plan because most of them live out in the countryside and would appear to want to see the towns carry the full brunt of the housing pressure. A 10 year LDF will see further expansion at Edenbrook and more housing pushed on to Grove Farm. A follow on 10 year plan would still not have enough housing to justify a new settlement, so the next 4,000 houses may well have to go to the south of Crookham Village.

Crookham Village would lose its rural identity while Fleet & Church Crookham would become choked off by a ring of concrete that would slowly encircle it. Meanwhile no one benefits from any significant new infrastructure.

It is totally abhorrent that a Government which promised ‘localism’ would railroad through legislation that could force a predominantly rural area, such as Hart, to take far more housing than it is capable of absorbing without having to build on greenfield sites. However, this is what looks set to happen with the emerging National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and is certainly what Hart’s planning policy team are currently promoting as the most likely scenario. It is an inescapable fact that any substantial building programme in Hart will mean building on greenfield sites somewhere.

If we are forced into such a situation, then local people must expect their representatives not to bury their heads in the sand. If our elected national government is going to foist excessive levels of growth upon us, then Hart needs to look at all the options, as unthinkable and unpalatable as they seem. We need to give ourselves the opportunity to look at all the options, even if they are limited and stark. We either continue to grow Fleet & Church Crookham outwards (in which case what, realistically, what do you do with the traffic?) or we look at a new settlement.

Winchfield is about the only sustainable location for such a new settlement in Hart District. It has a mainline railway station and has the potential for either a new motorway access or better access to the A30. A new settlement could be built with adequate primary school provision and would, most importantly, have the critical mass to justify a new secondary school with the other nearby rural communities.

Winchfield Station
Winchfield has its own mainline railway station

I do not want to pre-judge which of these bleak options are best – neither are very attractive or appealing. However, I do believe that Hart needs to bite the bullet and at least do the necessary work to analyse which option would be the least detrimental for the most people. However, suggesting such an approach seems to be heresy. The previous Conservative portfolio holder for planning was sacked because he dared to try to investigate the Winchfield option for himself. The story as reported in the press was biased in that it focused on the horror of the new Winchfield eco-village, yet did not point out that the alternative is to extend Fleet & Church Crookham ever outwards through Crookham Village.

We have to be open and honest and do a balanced review. Which green fields are more important from a biodiversity standpoint? By how much can you afford to expand Calthorpe Park School before education standards start to slide? Which development location will have the least adverse impact on traffic?

In May 2012, there will be another round of Hart District elections. Local residents should demand that all candidates standing for election should state where they stand on this critical issue. Do they support the notion that when faced with an unprecedented number of new houses, the only fair way to address this abhorrent prospect is to research all the options? Or do they believe we should just blindly carry on with the same old plan of incremental development that has failed us for the past 30 years?

No one wants to see yet more development but when the government forces it upon us then we, as a community, do need to face the challenge by thinking strategically and not just sleep-walk into repeating the same old mistakes without at least evaluating the alternatives.

QEB Update

Taylor Wimpey have been encouraged by Hart’s planning department to bring forward an application to build an additional 100 houses on the QEB site. These houses would be built on the site of the employment units which are in the original proposal.

Given that the need for employment on the QEB site was identified in two public inquiries, it would appear to be a mistake for Hart to be recommending the move from employment to housing.

Planners are keen to emphasise the importance of ‘sustainable’ development but appear to view this as simply putting more housing alongside what already exists. This is based on the mistaken belief that where houses have already been deemed to be sustainable, then additional houses on the same development must also be sustainable.

Surely a sustainable development is one which caters for the needs of the people who will live there? This must mean including some form of opportunity for local employment, at least that was the opinion of two different planning inspectors.

Planners often seem somewhat insulated from the hard economic reality of life. Generally, buying a house requires you to have a job to pay off your mortgage and having a job usually means having a place to work.

With mass production now more economical in the Far East, a manufacturing led economic recovery in the UK is going to be reliant on small specialist companies. Equally, despite large modern office blocks lying empty as victims of ‘off-shoring’, successful smaller organisations still need somewhere to base their operations.

So, it would seem to be prudent to build small light industrial and small office buildings to complement housing developments. Without these, we are giving in to the notion that everyone either works from home, sits in a long traffic jam, or stands on a crowded train to commute to work.

Replacing an area dedicated to providing local employment with 100 additional houses is rather short sighted and doesn’t seem to fit in with what most people would consider ‘planning’ to be about.

QEB traffic calming consultations

As the QEB development progresses, it is expected that a number of traffic calming measures will be needed in order to manage the impact of all the extra traffic. Unfortunately Hampshire Highways seem to be convinced that the only effective traffic calming measure is build outs (often known as chicanes). They seem to have forgotten how dangerous and detested the chicanes where on Elvetham Road when they were first built in response to the Elvetham Heath development.

Chicanes don’t work as a traffic calming measure because too many people speed up to get around them before any car approaching the other way. They are also dangerous because they force cars to drive head-on towards each other (how can that be safe?) and, as was proved on Elvetham Road, people who don’t expect them to be there promptly drive into them.

Speed bumps are generally detested because they are seen to damage vehicle suspension or impede vehicles with a lowered chassis. However, speed tables, such as those used at the road junctions along Fleet Road do seem to work. Unlike chicanes, everyone has to slow down for them but because the entire car goes up onto them before coming down the other side, they are not as damaging as speed bumps.

Despite much opposition from Quetta Park residents, Hampshire Highways insist that chicanes are the best option. They base this on the fact that although chicanes were criticized when proposed for some local roads, no one said they shouldn’t be put on roads around Quetta Park.

This is probably because, at the time, Highways did not draw attention to the fact that chicanes were proposed on Naishes Lane or Leipzig Road. Therefore, because no one objected on these specific roads, the Highways ‘Engineers’ seem to feel justified in putting them in!!

The moral of this story is if Hampshire consults in your area about traffic calming (or other highways works) for your local roads, then beware. If there are things you don’t think would work, then you should state this in writing, even if such measures don’t appear in the initial proposal.

A consultation on traffic calming for the roads closest to the site is expected imminently. Further consultations may happen in the coming year as more measures further afield come to be required.
Build outs onLeipzig Road
Build outs on Leipzig Road but are they safe?    

Crondall Report

by John Bennison Jon Bennison

On 17th January the Boundary Commission released their final decision document which set out how Hart should be re-divided up into District wards. Their decision has followed an extensive review, which has looked carefully at how to divide the district up so that each ward has as near equal number of voters as possible. Hart currently has 18 wards and 35 councillors. In May 2014 this will reduce to 11 wards, each with 3 elected representatives. Clearly this has resulted in an extensive redrawing of ward boundaries. One of the most affected areas in the whole of Hart will be Crondall ward, which will be split in two and lose its name.

Crondall itself will become part of a larger rural ward centred around Odiham. Crookham Village and Ewshot (along with the QEB site) will join with the western part of Church Crookham and Zebon Copse to form a new ward.

Another local ward to disappear in 2014 will be the Fleet Courtmoor ward, the north western part of which, will form part of a new Fleet Central ward. The south eastern part of Fleet Courtmoor will join with Church Crookham East.

The decision to have three Councillors in each ward was predicated by Hart having district elections in three out of the four years in the local election cycle. This is the main reason why we have ended up with significantly larger wards than before. With elections for the County in the fourth year of the election cycle then everyone in Hart will have the opportunity to vote in local elections every year.

New School for the QEB

In our last Newsletter we reported on our concerns that the Local Education Authority (Hampshire County Council) were prepared to turn down the opportunity to build a new school on the QEB site. Since then the head teachers and school governors of Tweseldown Infants & Church Crookham Juniors along with members of Church Crookham parish council and Jenny Radley (as the local County Councillor) have been busy lobbying hard to persuade the LEA to think again.

All this hard work has paid off and Hampshire have changed their minds, deciding to adopt the excellent suggestion first put forward by the schools themselves. The plan now is to build a new infant school on the QEB site, which the existing Tweseldown Infant school will move into. This will leave space on the Tweseldown Road site for Church Crookham Juniors to expand into the vacated infant school. Hampshire will renovate the old infant school building to make it suitable for use by junior school children.

The new infant school is initially being built as a 3 form entry facility. However, it will have the supporting infrastructure in terms of the size of the communal areas (such as the school hall) to be readily expanded to a 4 form entry school when needed. The new infant school is scheduled to be completed for occupancy in January 2014.

Published by: Julia Ambler, 39 Du Maurier Close, Church Crookham, Hampshire, GU52 0YA