The Newsletter of the Community Campaign (Hart)
Issue 19, Spring 2017
How Hart’s Local Plan and ‘urban extensions’ can affect your familyHart have finally agreed a draft Local Plan for public consultation, which is due to be starting around the time you read this Newsletter.
Most importantly the plan sets out where Hart District Council, as the ‘local planning authority’ would prefer to see housing development in the years up to 2032.
You may feel some sense of déjà vu as, yes, Hart has consulted on the Local Plan before. This is primarily due to the consultation-laden nature of the process, although an error caused one restart.
In the last consultation, the majority of us responded in favour of a new settlement. This majority doesn’t want planners repeating the mistakes of past decades; bolting new housing onto existing towns.
This short-changes us all on infrastructure, robs us of valued green space and puts ever more cars on our already congested roads.
One of the consequences of the historical approach is that the area is now woefully short of secondary school places. The massive Calthorpe Park expansion will only address the ‘current need’ and will not accommodate any children from the new houses to be built between now and 2032.
Sense in the new settlement
As the Government obliges Hart to plan to meet our assessed housing need (or face planning by appeal), these new homes do have to go somewhere, hence the need for a new settlement. The choice of a site near Winchfield for the new settlement has quite understandably irked its residents who, for such a small community, have been very vocal through their own ‘We Heart Hart‘ campaign.
Winchfield has been protected from development by Hart's 'rural' Conservatives for decades now – and it is now only because the Community Campaign have been effective in breaking their stranglehold on the council, that we aren’t facing a Local Plan which simply dumps all development on our doorstep once again. This has meant that We Heart Hart have directed misinformation and outright lies about us in recent years. The Community Campaign have chosen not to embroil ourselves in ‘tit for tat’ responses, nor engage in Trump-like diatribes of claims and counter claims on social media.
We’re on the case
Instead, we believe our electorate wants us to get on with the job – and this we have done. Although it has taken a Herculean effort, we have continued to push forward on behalf of our residents in the face of an ever-changing planning environment. Projected housing numbers have varied wildly, with planners telling us what we ‘must accept’ and are ‘compelled to do’, without taking account of local issues.
We have finally got there. Our persistent and carefully applied influence has seen Hart draft a Local Plan which proposes a new settlement that can both deliver a new secondary school and doesn’t rely upon major urban extensions.
The draft Local Plan now favours a retirement village at Cross Farm in Crookham Village - a development which will destroy the rural nature of this threatened village. The Community Campaign believe that the premise used by planners to include this site is flawed. While we do need affordable homes for the elderly, this development will deliver homes that aren’t remotely affordable. Residents do need to challenge this erroneous planning logic in the forthcoming Local Plan consultation.
An emerging Local Plan doesn't guarantee protection for sensitive local sites such as Grove Farm and Elvetham Chase (Pale Lane). Developers have put in speculative planning applications for both of these sites to try and get permission, either directly or through appeal, before the Local Plan is adopted.
A grave cause for concern for those affected by urban extension sites, is that some of the Conservative administration questioned the cost of fighting the Grove Farm appeal.
If these councillors are worrying about the cost of defending a planning refusal, even when it is on robust grounds as with Grove Farm, can they be trusted to make the right planning decisions?
Particularly as Grove Farm was not refused by Hart's planning committee on the night, but was deferred as a result of a deliberate manipulative move by Cllr Sharyn Wheale, encouraging the applicant to lodge an immediate appeal for non-determination.
Hartland Village at Pyestock
Another aspect of the Local Plan is the heavy reliance upon Hartland Park to deliver 1,500 homes, which seems to many to be an excessive number of units for a relatively small site. It is true that it is a brownfield site and is therefore preferable for development over Grove Farm or Pale Lane. However, it must not become a blight in its own right.
A very public promise by the Conservatives to ensure that the development included a proper link road through the site has now been quietly dropped from their agenda.
At a recent meeting, they happily resigned themselves to the suggestion that, in order for Hartland Village kids to attend Fleet schools, children from Elvetham Heath would need to find their own way – to Yateley!
Local schools for local children
By redrawing Fleet school catchment boundaries in this way, the education authority Hampshire County Council (HCC) will be able to avoid responsibility for laying on a school bus for children who live more than 3 miles radius from their allocated school.
Although others may claim involvement, it was the hard work of the Community Campaign that brought HCC to the table, to have an honest and frank discussion about the need for a new secondary school – that HCC finally accepts must be built.
However, if this new secondary school is to be ready as soon as 2021, when the children will need it, then we need a suitable and available site very soon!
Your independent Community Campaign welcomes two additional District CouncillorsTwo well-respected local councillors have joined the Community Campaign group on Hart District Council. Sara Kinnell and Richard Woods both represent residents in the Fleet West ward, which combines Elvetham Heath with northern Fleet.
Sara and Richard were elected on personal manifestos including protecting Fleet from inappropriate bolt-on developments. However, they came under fierce pressure from their Conservative group to accept the party’s long-practiced rural doctrine – of concreting over Fleet and Crookham’s green fields, rather than addressing infrastructure needs by concentrating development in a new sustainable settlement.
Integrity before party politics
The final straw came in October, when they defied their party leadership and supported the Community Campaign in seeking to ensure that Hart council endorsed the overwhelming views shown by the public through the Local Plan consultation: that the plan should include a site for a new settlement.
Without such a new settlement, it is inevitable that greenfield sites like Grove Farm and Pale Lane (AKA Elvetham Chase )will fall to the bulldozers, as Hart DC finds space for the thousands of new homes it is obliged to build in the next 15 years.
The vitriol they faced for putting their residents and personal integrity ahead of party instructions made them realise that they had no hope of bringing about change within the Tory group. Their personal values and obligation to represent the views of those who elected them, convinced them that they could not continue as Conservative councillors.
The Community Campaign welcomes Sara and Richard to our team, fully embracing the contribution they are making towards our efforts to obtain the best possible outcome from the Local Plan process. By taking the brave step of sticking to their principles, the Local Plan has been steered away from relying on bolt-on developments like Grove Farm and Pale Lane.
Sara Kinnell and Richard Woods represent you in Fleet West
A message from Sara and Richard
“We hope Fleet West residents will see our move for the spirit of honesty in which it was made. We trust you understand our ethos; that our remit to represent you comes before party politics. We have never taken our electorate for granted. We’re honoured to be councillors for Fleet West and we will do everything in our power to continue to be effective representatives, for you and your priorities.”
Bourley Road access
A Church Crookham update, by James Radley
In the age of ‘alternative facts’ and political spin, hopefully some will find it refreshing that we should ‘fess up’ to something that has not gone as well as hoped. In this instance, despite having an enthusiastic start to our campaign, the Bourley Road heathland car park remains closed.
In fact, at the time of writing, most of the other car parks in and around this local army heathland are also closed, due to health and safety concerns while contractors undertake tree felling work.
Apparently the authorities are concerned that the general public cannot be relied upon to keep away from workers felling trees with chainsaws.
The suggestion that car parks could be reopened when the lumberjacks are not working seems to have fallen on deaf ears. We trust the logging work should be finished and the car parks reopened by late March, when the bird nesting season starts.