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The Hart Local Plan

Inspector approves Local Plan

20 February 2020  


Hart District Council has received the Report from Planning Inspector Jonathan Manning concluding that the Hart Local Plan Strategy and Sites 2014 - 2032 is sound and capable of adoption incorporating his recommended Main Modifications.

Here you can read The Inspector's Report  and the Schedule of Main Modifications

All the documents referred to in the report are available at the Hart Examination Document Library 

The next steps will be for Hart's Cabinet to formally agree to adopt the Local Plan at its meeting on 5 March.  Thereafter it will presented to full Council on 26 March for approval.

The plan covers the period 2016 to 2032 but must be reviewed every 5 years, with a rolling forward planning period.

Hart Local Plan (June 2019)

The Inspector has submitted his post hearings letter to the Council (EXAM 60). The Council has now responded (EXAM 60A). Modifications will now be drafted and further information will be available in due course.  Consultation on Proposed Modifications is expected to take place in summer 2019.

Hart Local Plan (1st March 2019)

Statement regarding Hart District Council’s Local Plan Examination from Hart District Council:

On 26 February, Hart District Council received a letter from the Inspector, Jonathan Manning, with some feedback relating to the examination of the Hart Local Plan – Strategy and Sites document.  

Speaking about the letter, Cllr Graham Cockarill, Cabinet Member for Planning Services at Hart District Council, Said: “The letter gives us a clear indication that, subject to the Council agreeing a couple of important modifications, we are close to having in place a sound Local Plan."

This is great news for both the Council and its residents because at long last it will give us a sound basis to make future planning decisions and it removes the threat of planning by appeal.  

The Inspector has accepted our assessment of what is our objectively assessed housing need at around 388 dwellings per annum and recognised our positive approach to meeting that need. It is for this reason that the Inspector recommends that we agree to meet Surrey Heath’s unmet need because it can be done within our projected targets without changing our plan or having to find further sites. 

The Inspector’s other key recommendation is that we do not, at this time, pursue Policy SS3 [New Settlement at the Murrell Green/Winchfield Area of Search]. In his view the new settlement approach is not sufficiently developed to be included within the Plan particularly as the numbers of new homes it may deliver are not necessary to meet our housing numbers within this Plan. The important point is that the inspector does not rule out a new settlement option for the future and accepts that it would be good for the Local Plan to retain the Council’s aspirations to plan for long-term needs beyond the Plan period, which could include the delivery of a new settlement.  

You can read the inspector's letter by following this link to Hart District Council's website

News from the Examination In Public (Dec 14th 2018)

Day 10

Summary

Today the Examination in Public completed by looking at the last remaining issues and the proceedings were formally closed.  All of the developers, Winchfield Parish Council and Winchfield-based action groups were present.

The examination discussed whether the settlement hierarchy and spatial distribution were based on up-to-date evidence, were justified and consistent with national policy.  This has implications for deciding where building will be permitted especially in rural areas and outside the existing settlement boundaries.  

A previous suggestion to remove the settlement hierarchy from the Local Plan was revisited and it was decided to keep the settlement hierarchy in the Local Plan. Some minor modifications to the maps defining settlement boundaries will take account of recent permissions.

Although a number of points were raised by site promoters and Winchfield there were no major changes to the plan from this session.

The Inspector thanked everyone for their considered contributions to the discussions and closed proceedings.

The examination hearings are now concluded.  The inspector will issue a response to the council on the agreed points probably in February 2019 and the full adjudication will be issued in a report ‘after due consideration’ some time in 2019.

More detail here: http://www.faceit-group.org/community/face-it-group-13510/the-hart-local-plan/

In Detail

Matter 4: Spatial Distribution of New Housing (continued)

The Examination in Public considered the remaining six issues raised on Matter 4 about the spatial distribution of new housing.  This matter was completed and the examination was closed in the morning session.  All the developers / site promoters, Winchfield Parish Council, and the ‘Rural Hart Association’ were present.

The evidence base for the settlement hierarchy was discussed and there were some questions raised about potential discrepancies of settlement allocations to settlement tiers. Hart explained the rationale for assessing tiers based on a number of factors; whilst accepting that were was some subjectivity this did not materially affect the settlement hierarchy or overall spatial strategy.  

In a previous session it had been suggested that Hart may remove the settlement hierarchy from the Local Plan (leaving a reference to it) as it was not material to any of the policies in the Local Plan, settlement boundaries are anyway defined, and the hierarchy could be maintained separately.  It was agreed that it is a useful level of detail in the Local Plan and provides context for Neighbourhood Plans and so shall be kept in the Local Plan.  

A discussion about a number of specific cases ensued.  Hartley Wintney has only 23 additional houses over the plan period, but this follows a large number of recent planning permissions which meet the local need.

The impact of Policy SS3 for the New Settlement was raised again by considering whether it represented a redistribution of people within Hart or an inward migration into the District. Hart stated that while it does not control migration, the Local Plan is designed to meet the Objectively Assessed Housing Need for Hart and that migrations probably balanced out over time.

The Rural Hart Association questioned why the brownfield register was not included in the Local Plan, given that the NPPF encourages brownfield land to be used as first priority. Hart responded that a brownfield first policy is being adopted for a large proportion of housing delivery, e.g. at Hartland Village, office conversions and other sites but that it brings limited or no infrastructure contributions so can leave an infrastructure deficit.

The policy on Sustainable Development (Policy SD1) was considered to be consistent with the NPPF (2012). A minor modification was agreed to bring it closer to the intention of paragraph 11 of the NPPF (2018) covering heritage and biodiversity assets so that it would not immediately be out of date when adopted.

The Inspector considered further whether the distribution of housing in the spatial strategy (Policy SS1) was supported by the Sustainability Appraisal.  Hart summarised the explanation it had already given to the examination in a previous session.  Some developers argued again that it was not the most sustainable pattern of housing growth because of shortcomings in the appraisal which disadvantaged their site, including those for Pale Lane, Grange Farm, and Eversley.  Hart responded again on the approach but the Inspector was not minded to review every site appraisal again at examination.

The Rural Hart Association again questioned whether the spatial distribution was the most sustainable approach, and that the criteria could equally be applied to other strategies. The Inspector referred to the discussion already held under Matter 1 on Day 1 and Day 9. 

The Inspector considered whether the needs of rural communities were being met.  Several developers were promoting sites in rural areas that were not being included.  Hart replied that Fleet has taken nearly 40% of housing development since 2014 (not yet including Hartland Village) with the remainder being distributed throughout the District which is mostly rural.  Rural provision for the elderly and those needing specialised care was raised again but the Inspector felt that flexibility was already provided through the rural exceptions policy for this type of accommodation (Policy H3).

Some minor amendments were agreed to the settlement boundaries to take account of recent permissions with associated updates to the policy maps. It was agreed that a settlement boundary for Hartland Village would be established and incorporated into the Policies Map when further details became available.  Any further updates to settlement boundaries could be included with the Development Plan Document or next update to the Local Plan.

Hart concluded that it had struck a reasonable strategic balance for development over the District overall including rural sites.

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The Inspector then closed the examination hearings with thanks to Hart for its positive engagement through a difficult and taxing process, the Programme Officer for organisation of the examination programme, and all participants for their contributions.

Some minor amendments have already been agreed during the examination and the Inspector will confirm these through a letter to Hart District Council.  Due to workload this may be in February 2019.  This will allow an update to the Local Plan pending the Inspector’s full report and adjudication on the adoption of the Local Plan, which will follow ‘after due consideration’ sometime during 2019.

The Examination In Public was closed.

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More detail here: http://www.faceit-group.org/community/face-it-group-13510/the-hart-local-plan/

Day 9

Summary

Today the Examination in Public looked at two Matters which were originally scheduled for the first week of the Examination but overran.  Most of the developers and Winchfield Parish Council were present.

The discussion of legal requirements under Matter 1 was continued and concluded.  The main topic was the Sustainability Appraisal of the alternative strategies for housing in the District.  Hart defended its method for performing the spatial analysis and ranking the various options for development in the District according to factors such as quantity of housing, potential for growth beyond the plan period (after 2032), damage to the historic environment, impact on the environment, water quality, economic impacts and education.

Some minor legal compliance and consistency issues were also confirmed under Matter 1.

The discussion about the Local Plan’s Vision and Strategic Objectives under Matter 2 resulted in some small wording modifications being agreed for consistency.

The examination concludes next week (Tuesday).

More detail here: http://www.faceit-group.org/community/face-it-group-13510/the-hart-local-plan/

In Detail

Matter 1: Legal Requirements (continued)

The Examination in Public considered the remaining 5 issues raised on Matter 1 about the legal requirements and compliance of the plan.

A new legal opinion had been provided yesterday by Carter Jones representing Wates Developments. The Inspector was not minded to discuss at the Examination but after discussion it was agreed that all parties to the Examination would be asked for their assessment of the opinion

The Examination then continued the discussion on whether the Sustainability Appraisal (SA) was adequate, and whether the plan was based on a sound process of assessing alternatives and whether reasonable alternatives to the proposal for an Area Of Search for New Settlement had been considered.

Hart reprised its description of the SA process which has taken a set of alternative spatial strategies (locations for housing) and ranked them in order of preference based on a set of criteria.  The first tier of ranking (the preferred options) includes the Area Of Search for a new settlement.  The second tier of ranking (less preferred options) includes some strategic sites and non-strategic sites. There are three further tiers of ranking the other options in decreasing order of preference.

The examination then discussed the criteria by which the various options had been assessed and assigned to their ranking in order of preference.  Given that 95% of the housing need has been given permission this was a very long discussion over the options for the remaining 5% of housing required over the plan period. 

The main criterion was the quantum of housing, with those options that met the housing need being ranked highest. The inspector noted that an over-provision of housing ought to reduce the preference as the additional population may not match provision of jobs, travel and other infrastructure.  

Developers pointed out that several of the options could provide an equivalent quantum of housing and challenged the basis of the ranking. In particular the total housing need could be met by granting permission for all the other sites without needing a new settlement. This led to consideration of the other factors.

Hart explained the factor of the potential to provide further homes after the plan period without incurring additional negative effects. It had assessed that those options including a new settlement area of search had performed strongly on this factor. This was challenged as the long-term housing need had not been established and therefore could not be a valid selection criterion.  Hart said that it was a stated assumption consistent across all options and referred to the 2012 NPPF which states a need for long-term planning, and that it would not be sound to assume that no new homes would be required after 2032. Winchfield restated their concern that there was no assessment of the negative impacts of over-provision.   After discussion it was not clear whether this statement refers to planning beyond the plan period and the interpretation of the NPPF as a matter of law will need to be considered by the Inspector.

Hart explained the ranking of potential damage to the historic environment.  Hart explained that some options had been ranked higher than others based on input from Historic England, uncertainty of delivery and other known factors.  The examination challenged the idea that some urban extensions may have an impact on the historic environment whilst the Area Of Search would have a lower impact.  The fact that Historic England had not objected to the Area of Search didn’t mean there was no impact.  Hart explained that individual site appraisals had been undertaken but pooled for the spatial analysis. This was again challenged as some sites may have been disadvantaged by inclusion in a pool with some negative impacts whereas individually they didn’t have any.  Hart restated that it had used pooling because it could not consider every combination and permutation of sites.  Developers claimed that this was ‘inequitable’.

Hart explained how the factor of environmental resources and impacts had been assessed.  A Geographical Information System (GIS) had been used to spatially assess the potential impacts of flood zones, ancient woodland, SSSIs etc. on the spatial options.  As all options included some impacts on agricultural land these had been ranked as par. Although some individual sites have known impacts and potential mitigations these had not been included because it was a District-wide spacial analysis for options not an assessment of individual sites.

There were nevertheless some objections from developers about how their individual sites had been treated in the assessment.  Pale Lane was assessed Red for SINC and Ancient Woodland by the GIS process despite mitigations being identified and no objection from Natural England and the benefits not being considered.  Land (near) Reading Road (Cemex) had been rejected despite a housing mix containing C3 housing, a SANG and a 30m buffer to Ancient Woodland.  Land West of Ewshott Lane near Church Crookham had been considered alongside others despite forming a ‘natural’ extension to Fleet and bringing other benefits. It had been treated differently to Hartland Village (which however is a brownfield site).  The way that Rye Common had been scored and ranked as an option was also debated.

The use of water quality and economic impacts through the Economic Land Review (ELR) in the ranking was briefly discussed.

The provision of Primary and Secondary Education and the need for a new Secondary School was discussed again.  Although there is, as yet, no position statement from Hampshire County Council (as Local Education Authority) Hart restated its opinion that options for expansion of existing secondary schools and the associated provision of transport infrastructure was limited. 

Hart restated that it is reasonable to take an overall strategic view, it has considered the sites that have come forward through the SHLAA in a consistent manner, and has taken account of other developments that are already in progress.

It was remarked that the SA does not describe how community impact and employment land were assessed. Transport had been assessed under Accessibility.

There was further discussion about whether Hart’s update to the SA in August 2018 should be regarded as definitive.  Although it provides an update including detail of Hartland Village it had not been consulted upon therefore the basis of the current Examination should be evidence base containing the SA from February 2018.

Hart concluded that its incremental development of the Local Plan and the SA had constituted consideration of alternatives and had led to the ranking of preferences including the exclusion of Rye Common as an option and the incorporation of Hartland Village into the Plan.

Matter 1 also confirmed that the Local Plan had been developed in accordance with Hart’s Local Development Scheme. Hart confirmed how climate change had been addressed in policies (and that a specific policy on climate change was not required) and provided further confirmation of the updates needed to the Policies Map.

The examination hearings will conclude on Tuesday 18 December.

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More detail here: http://www.faceit-group.org/community/face-it-group-13510/the-hart-local-plan/

Day 8

Summary

Today the Examination in Public looked at three Matters.  Only a few of the developers were present who were interested in the specifics of these matters.

Under Matter 7 the examination discussed whether the evidence for assessing the needs of Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople was sound.

Matter 8 discussed other housing related policies on Housing Mix, Specialist Accommodation and Internal Space Standards with particular reference to issues raised by the promoters of a new care village in Crookham Village.  

Under Matter 13 Harts’ proposals for monitoring were also discussed.

The examination continues tomorrow (Thursday).

More detail here: http://www.faceit-group.org/community/face-it-group-13510/the-hart-local-plan/

In Detail

Matter 7: Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople

The Examination in Public considered the 12 issues raised on Matter 7 about the housing provision for gypsies and travelling people.  This matter was addressed in the morning session.

A Dr Murdoch, an advocate for Gypsies, challenged HDC's policy and the Planning Inspector (PI) took a detailed look at the assessments to determine housing numbers for such a small community group.

Policy H5: Gypsies, Travellers and Travelling Showpeople

The evidence used by HDC for their policy was based on an assessment made in 2015 GTAA (Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Assessment), so there were discussions between the experts about how best to reach this very hard to reach group and the importance of including those who were 
not available during the assessment and those who were not prepared to be involved. Dr Murdoch argued that there needed to be an update to the GTAA.  The Inspector seemed minded to encourage Hart to carry out a specific Gypsy and Traveller DPD based on an updated GTAA within the next 3 years. A minor modification to policy and supporting text is likely.

Matter 8: Other Housing Types and Related Policies

In the afternoon the Examination considered the 17 issues raised on Matter 6 about other housing types and policies related to them.  Some developers including the promoters of a new care village in Crookham Village were present.

Policy H1: Housing Mix

The criteria within this policy for assessing housing types were assessed for viability and consistency with national policy.  This included such questions as self-build, specialist provision and moorings for houseboats.

Proposals for new homes on sites of 5 or more houses should include at least 15% of accessible and adaptable new market homes as defined by M4(2) of the building regulations and provision for specialist /supported accommodation.  

The developers at the table argued that this may not be viable.  Taking specialist homes for example this will add costs for developers who are having to provide homes for older and disabled people, in a range of ways already.  It will depend on the size, location and level of support being required. Developers need to know what will be expected of them and it was agreed that there would be additional supporting text to these policies.

There was discussion about provision of self-build sites depending on the number of properties on a development.  A 5% provision of self-build within the 60% market housing quota on development sites of a certain threshold in size might be difficult for some developers and there was question about the real level of self-build demand.  The Planning Inspector was not convinced this had been fully considered and he asked the council to provide supporting text to help explain a threshold level and flexibility.

The Planning Inspector had been provided with an answer to his questions about houseboats, so that matter was agreed.

Policy H4: Specialist And Supported Accommodation

The inspector looked at the way that needs for older people in residential institutions were identified and planned to be met and the criteria for deciding whether specialist accommodation should be allowed in the countryside. 

Hart recognises the various types of accommodation for older people, ranging from sheltered homes, extra care homes and nursing homes.  The care home developers who have a site in Hartley Wintney and the developers of the Care Village at Cross Farm pointed out the level of identified need and the fact that the number of older people in Hart is growing.  It seems that the cohort of over-85s is growing faster than the over-65s, with associated higher level of needs.  Developments for these people need wheelchair access, storage for wheelchairs and scooters, affordable housing for older people and specialist housing adaptations. There was discussion about the need for C2 (residential institutions) and C3 (dwelling houses) housing. There was discussion about the need to consider locations of specialist housing.  Developers pointed out that larger schemes could be more self-sufficient but large sites were hard to find within settlement areas, even large sites such as Hartland Park was only expected to provide for C3 housing rather than extra care or nursing homes.

The Cross Farm developers were keen to promote their own scheme, which had been identified in an earlier version of the plan but later removed.  The Planning Inspector established that this application had already been turned down twice.  The Planning Inspector noted that with 95% of housing already allocated it was hard to see how the remaining 5% of housing allocation would be able to address this identified need.  Hart pointed out that the level of growth of over-65s had increased in Hart by 41% between the 2001 and 2011 censuses against the national average of 11%. Hart is already performing better than most other districts or boroughs and within the last 3 years Hart had permitted 3 extra care homes, 2 sheltered homes and a nursing home, including a 60 bed care home on Reading Road North in Fleet.

The inspector will consider this matter in his report.

There was then discussion about criterion H4 b) to consider a sequential approach to development of specialist homes in the countryside, so it was decided to add another criterion that could apply if the other 2 criteria could not be overcome. There will be supporting text to explain the need to consider these criteria in sequence. 

Policy H6: Internal Space Standards

The Hart policy on space standard was considered against national policy and for flexibility. There was concern that standards of space in smaller houses was not being met, but developers were keen to point out the need to provide affordable homes. The developers wanted more flexibility in the policy so Hart  agreed to draft modifications to the policy and supporting text allow while still adhering to national standards.

Matter 13: Monitoring

Hart explained why they were monitoring the overall plan, rather than item by item, in order to maintain focus on the plan as a whole.  It was agreed that was compliant with national guidance.

The examination continues tomorrow.

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The timetable for the remainder of the Examination is available here: 

https://www.hart.gov.uk/sites/default/files/1_Residents/Programme%20v3.pdf

More detail here: http://www.faceit-group.org/community/face-it-group-13510/the-hart-local-plan/

Day 7

Summary

Today the Examination in Public looked at Matter 5 about ‘Housing Trajectory’ (the deliverability of housing over time) and Matter 6 about Affordable Housing. Most of the developers promoting sites and Winchfield Parish Council were present, as well as the House Builders Federation and Rent to Buy for Matter 6.

The examination discussed whether the plan was sound on the questions of supply and demand, i.e. projections for when land, housing completions and associated infrastructure would become available and whether supply would keep up with demand. Although there were some detailed discussions, Hart’s plan seemed sound as 95% of the housing supply has already been granted permission and its delivery has been forecast.  

The inspector also examined the forecast supply and demand for affordable housing, and whether Hart’s policies H2 on Affordable Housing and H3 on Rural Exception Sites are justified and consistent with national policy. 

There were 13 issues to discuss on housing trajectory and 12 on affordable housing. There were some proposed amendments, the examination ran to time and there seemed to be no ‘show-stopping’ issues on these matters.

The examination continues tomorrow (Wednesday).

More detail here: http://www.faceit-group.org/community/face-it-group-13510/the-hart-local-plan/

Detail

Matter 5: Housing Trajectory, Deliverability and Housing Land Supply

The Examination in Public considered the 13 issues raised on Matter 5 about the Housing Trajectory, Deliverability and Housing Land Supply over time.  The quantum of housing demand (the housing need) had already been discussed under Matter 2 on Day 2.  The main issues to be discussed were raised by the developers.  This matter was addressed and completed in the morning session.

The Inspector examined whether the delivery commitments were realistic.  Hart has tabled a revised trajectory (showing when housing would be delivered) due to recent approvals including Hartland Village (or Hartland Park). This was slightly but not significantly different from the numbers used in the Sustainability Appraisal. Some developers tried to show that other developers’ plans were not achievable to plan or were risky.   In particular the delivery plan for Hartland Park was discussed and compared with delivery from similar previous sites such as Elvetham Heath and Crookham Park (QEB). The developer explained how the Hartland Village site is all being decontaminated, prepared, built and sold by one developer, with housing delivery in overlapping phases, with remediation for phase 1 of 181 dwellings already completed.  Therefore it was confident of its plans to deliver about 100 houses per year over 16 years from 2020. Hart’s Policy SS2 on Hartland Park may be considered further under the remainder of Matter 4 scheduled for 18 December.

Market and economic uncertainty factors cannot be ruled out but affect the whole housing model.  

Most other sites already have planning permission and allocated SANG capacity with some SANG excess capacity.  Any housing delivery from ‘windfall’ sites will need to find their own SANG but only for larger developments.  The sites at Odiham and North Warnborough look realistic.

The timing of infrastructure delivery was discussed.  These are normally funded through S106 contributions which are released at defined points and through strategic investments by infrastructure providers including utilities and Hampshire County Council.  The Inspector noted that as the trajectory was front-loaded there will need to be rapid infrastructure delivery to cover the early years.  Infrastructure has already been discussed under Matter 11 (Day 5).  

There was a very low expectation of housing delivery from rural exception sites and they have historically come forward sporadically to a quantum of only 83 over the last 17 years.

There was a discussion about ‘lapse rates’ (sites which are given planning permission which then lapses and are not developed) but this is very low in Hart and there is no NPPF requirement to quantify them.

There was considerable discussion about the requirement to respond to ‘rapid change’ although all the issues raised by developers seemed to be around allocating more sites to deal with a sudden and un-forecast increase in housing demand rather than a decrease.  This turned into a discussion about risks such as one major site failing to deliver.  Winchfield argued that there is already a significant oversupply and changes to government methodology were likely to reduce the housing demand figure allocated to Hart. Hart agreed that there is sufficient supply in the plan period and that policy SS3 for a new settlement as well as plan reviews every 5 years provides longer-term flexibility to any large changes in circumstances.

The Inspector may consider requesting the plan period to run from 2014 instead of 2016 to give a full 15-year timespan and to consistently use the 2014 base for the housing trajectory. This may require some minor adjustments to the overall figures and would include housing and infrastructure funding from those first two years in calculations and allocations.

On the topic of Land Supply, Hart provided figures that in the 5 years 2007 to 2012 there was a 92 dwelling shortfall but in the 5 years 2012 to 2017 there was a 500 dwelling oversupply, therefore there is no persistent under-delivery of housing.

The provision of the required 5 years of land supply is likely to be found sound.

The question of whether the ‘Housing Delivery Test’ should be built in to Hart policies was rejected in favour of reference to existing national policy.  The inspector felt that Hart should not be punished for a short-term over-supply but that the HDT should be considered for the plan as a whole.

Matter 6: Affordable Housing

The Examination in Public considered the 12 issues raised on Matter 6 about Affordable Housing. 

This matter was addressed and concluded in a long afternoon session.  The developers, the House Builders Federation, Rent to Buy and Winchfield Parish Council were all represented.

The robustness of the method of calculating or otherwise identifying affordable housing need (demand) and the means of delivering it (supply) was discussed and assessed in accordance with national policy. Developers made the case for keeping the proportion of affordable housing lower but reaching the number required through building more housing overall. There was discussion about raising the housing numbers from 388 dwellings per annum to 485 in order to deliver a higher quantity of affordable housing.  However the overall housing demand (the housing need) had already been discussed under Matter 2 on Day 2.

There were discussions about viability assessments and the need for evidence, and Hart presented its evidence and responded well to the issues raised.  

Policy H2: Affordable Housing

The examination discussed Hart’s justification for this policy and the requirement for developments to provide at least 40% of affordable housing. 

The inspector examined the whether the requirement for developments of 11 dwellings or more to have affordable housing, and whether this policy’s application to specialist housing was justified and viable.  

The policy for affordable homes to be ‘restricted to future eligible households’ was discussed.  

Policy H3: Rural Exception Sites

The requirement for affordability in rural exception sites and the question of this policy only applying to smaller sites of up to 20 dwellings were discussed.

The inspector questioned Hart’s possible use of compulsory purchase powers in relation to this policy.

This afternoon’s discussion resulted in proposals for a few minor modifications of policies or supporting statements and there were a few details that were not agreed between representatives; these issues will be decided by the Inspector in his report.

The examination continues tomorrow.

Day 6

Summary

Today the Examination in Public looked at Matter 12 about The Environment. The main issues to be discussed were raised by a few developers, Winchfield Parish Council and Historic England.

The matters discussed included development in the countryside, gaps between settlements, landscape character and setting of settlements, the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area, biodiversity, flood risk, water quality, sustainable water use, historic environment, design, renewable and low carbon energy and pollution.

The policy on local gaps is likely to be merged with the one on landscape character and there will be some minor changes to wording of other policies.

The examination resumes on 11 December.

More detail here: http://www.faceit-group.org/community/face-it-group-13510/the-hart-local-plan/

Detail

Matter 12: Environment

Today the Examination in Public looked 25 issues related to Matter 12 about the environment.  The main issues to be discussed were raised by a few of the developers, Winchfield Parish Council and Historic England.  This matter was addressed and completed in the morning session.

The Inspector examined whether the environmental policies were justified and consistent with national policy, particularly the NPPF 2012 version although some reference was made to earlier and later policies and plans.

Development In The Countryside (Policy NBE1)

Although based on 2012 policy some updates for compatibility with later guidance were discussed.  Some clarifications will be required to avoid potential conflicts with policies SS3 on the new settlement and ED2 on local employment sites.  Security for rural sites was a concern and the policy in this area will be worded more positively.

Gaps Between Settlements (Policy NBE2)

Gaps are defined in the plan to prevent coalescence of settlements.  A Topic Paper presents the detailed rationale for designated gaps.

The examination discussed whether this was supported in national policy.  Developers wanted a lifetime defined for gaps and Winchfield argued that there was no policy protecting the pattern or unique nature of settlements.  

The examination also questioned whether the definition of the gaps specified in the policy was sufficiently detailed and unambiguous.  Although settlement boundaries are clearly defined the boundaries of gaps between them are not; although Hart had done more work that was presented in the evidence base and Topic Paper, more was needed.  The Inspector tended towards the opinion that this policy wasn’t sufficiently robust.

Rather than holding up the Local Plan, the policy on gaps is likely to be subsumed within policy NBE3 on Landscape pending the further work required and the identification of specific gaps may be removed

Landscape (Policy NBE3)

Hart explained that this policy includes landscape character, and that the qualities of a place, rural look and feel, openness and space need to be defended.  Winchfield asked that historic views and features be included in the policy. 

Due to the derogation of policy NBE2 on gaps, this policy is likely to be expanded.

Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area (Policy NBE4)

There was some further discussion about SANG effectiveness.  The inspector challenged the suggestion by developers promoting sites west of Hook that developments outside the SPA zone of influence should necessarily be given priority as it was based on a misinterpretation of an older policy in the South East regional plan which itself is being superseded..

Biodiversity (Policy NBE5)

Some minor amendments were suggested including direct reference to the Habitats Regulations rather than extracts within the policy.

Managing Flood Risk (Policy NBE6)

Hart explained that the policy complies with national policy and functions to address flood risk, each specific site has to be assessed according to the identified Environment Agency flood zones and follows a sequential test.  Both ground water issues and surface water issues need to be addressed.

Water Quality and Sustainable Water Use (Policies NBE7 and NBE8)

Rushmoor, Surrey Heath and Hart are all part of the south East Water area and have to meet the standard of 110 litres per person per day. They also have to take account of risk due to long-term climate change.  There were no major issues.

Historic Environment (Policy NBE9)

The Inspector, Hart and the Historic England representative agreed that Historic England had been able to agree most issues in a Statement of Common Ground with Hart.

However Historic England still had some concerns and the examination discussed revised policy wording allowing assessment, protection and conservation of designated or non-designated historical assets.  Specific policy wording was agreed to protect historic assets from harm.

Design (Policy NBE10)

Hart were able to respond to the Inspector’s questions on this policy and two modifications were agreed: one to reflect the need for design to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour and the other to accept a reference to the Public Rights of Way.

Renewable and Low Carbon Energy (Policy NBE11)

There was a short discussion about the Energy Opportunities Plan and renewable energy scheme. The council would modify the policy to take into account any historical or heritage asset.

Pollution (Policy NBE12)

The examination discussed the need to address the cumulative effects from multiple developments.  Although there is no national policy, Hart agreed to revise the policy wording to reflect this need.

 

The examination continues on Tuesday 11 December.

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Discussion of Policies SS1 and SS2, deferred from the first week, have been rescheduled.  The revised timetable which is available here: 

https://www.hart.gov.uk/sites/default/files/1_Residents/Programme%20v3.pdf

More detail here: http://www.faceit-group.org/community/face-it-group-13510/the-hart-local-plan/

Day 5

Summary

Today the Examination in Public looked only at Matter 11 about Infrastructure. The main issues to be discussed were raised by a few developers and ‘We Heart Hart’.   

The Inspector examined whether the Local Plan is based on a sound understanding of infrastructure requirements and their delivery and whether the Infrastructure Delivery Plan (IDP) is robust.

 ‘We Heart Hart’ argued that there was a gap in infrastructure funding and for many items there were no costs specified.  Hart responded that the infrastructure providers had been consulted and that the development of the IDP and costs was an iterative process which would continue. 

‘We Heart Hart’ also pointed out that the infrastructure for a possible new settlement had not been specified or costed, and that without these Policy SS3 for a New Settlement was unsound.  Hart responded that the policy specifies a planning process and was not yet a quantified development scheme. Major infrastructure providers had been consulted and ‘show-stopping’ issues had not been identified. Infrastructure proposals and costs will be developed as part of the further planning.

‘We Heart Hart’ argued that Policy SS3 stated that “Planning permission will be given” but it was pointed out that this was still subject to a search and a suitable development scheme coming forward through the Development Plan Document which will in due course be subject to separate examination. 

The examination continues tomorrow.

More detail here: http://www.faceit-group.org/community/face-it-group-13510/the-hart-local-plan/

Detail

Matter 11: Infrastructure

This was addressed in the morning session.

Today the Examination in Public looked only at Matter 11 about Infrastructure.  The main issues to be discussed were raised by a few of the developers and ‘We Heart Hart’.   

The Inspector examined whether the Local Plan is based on a sound understanding of infrastructure requirements and their delivery and whether the Infrastructure Delivery Plan (IDP) is robust.

Hart explained that the IDP sets out key elements of social and physical infrastructure with associated costs and sources of funding where known.  It is developed according to certain standards and has been developed in conjunction with neighbouring authorities and infrastructure providers.

The key soundness test was based on the IDP which excludes the new settlement as the infrastructure justification for the new settlement is discussed under Matter 4 (Policy SS3 on the new settlement). As ‘We Heart Hart’ were not present during that Matter 4 the Inspector allowed them to raise their concerns under this matter. 

Policy on Infrastructure (I1)

 ‘We Heart Hart’ argued that there was an infrastructure funding gap and for many of the infrastructure items there were no costs specified (‘tbd’ items).  

Hart responded that the infrastructure providers had been consulted on the IDP, the development of the plan and associated costs was an iterative process, and the IDP would continue to be worked on even after the plan was published.  The plan being over 6 years in the making has already had some iteration but also changes in regulation and the shape of the plan. 

The inspector suggested supporting text to the plan should mention likely sources of additional funding to address the funding gaps.  Those for transport are already mentioned in the Hampshire Local Transport Plan and there are other known sources of funding for green infrastructure.

A question about healthcare infrastructure and care for the elderly identified that the Clinical Commissioning Groups for the area had been consulted and that there was funding identified from the Hartland Park development (approved since the last issue of the IDP) towards new healthcare facilities.

‘We Heart Hart’ proposed estimates of infrastructure costs for a new settlement at £300 million including a new motorway junction, station extensions at Winchfield or Hook or a new station at Murrell Green, road developments and re-routing utilities etc. The point being made was that these costs should have been developed and without them Policy SS3 on the New Settlement is unsound. 

Hart responded that the new settlement was an area of search and not yet a quantified development scheme. Major infrastructure providers had been consulted and they had not identified ‘show-stopping’ issues. An infrastructure plan for the new development will be developed as part of the Development Plan Document for the new settlement or the existing IDP will be updated over time as proposals and costs emerge.

Moving back to Policy SS3, ‘We Heart Hart’ argued that Policy SS3 stated that “Planning permission will be given” but it was pointed out that this was only half a sentence and the policy states that it is still conditional on a search, a suitable development scheme coming forward through the Development Plan Document, and that plan in due course being subject to separate examination. 

Policy on Green Infrastructure (I2)

A further question about SANG provision led Hart to identify that the plan already identifies sufficient SANG, that additional SANG will be available at Hawley Farm Park, and that SANG provision is shared across borders with our neighbours.

The existing policy on the protection of the Basingstoke Canal (RUR32) will be retained.

Policy on Transport Infrastructure (I3)

Hart stated that its policy promoted sustainable transport in support of the plan Objectives and explained the transport modelling undertaken.

‘We Heart Hart’ suggested that the cost estimations of transport infrastructure were incomplete. Hart pointed to Statements of Common Ground with transport authorities and further modelling work that had clarified the roads and junctions needing improvement and pointed out that some infrastructure improvement such as M3 Junction 4A were in neighbouring areas and had been assessed jointly.

Policy on Open Space, Sport and Recreation (I4)

Some clarification on definition of play areas and open spaces will be added, and the existing open spaces added to the Policies Map to guide assessment of future planning applications.

Specific protection for school playing fields was regarded as unnecessary because of the rigorous existing rules on reducing any sort of playing fields.

Some minor amendments were discussed on Policies I5 and I6.

The examination continues tomorrow.

----

Discussion of Policies SS1 and SS2, deferred from the first week, have been rescheduled.  The examination continues tomorrow to a revised timetable which is available here: 

https://www.hart.gov.uk/sites/default/files/1_Residents/Programme%20v3.pdf

More detail here: http://www.faceit-group.org/community/face-it-group-13510/the-hart-local-plan/

Day 4

Summary

The Examination in Public resumed today on its revised programme after a break last week.  Today looked at Matter 9 which discussed Economic Development and Matter 10 which discussed Retail and Town Centres.

The discussion on Economic Development addressed questions about how the need for employment sites had been addressed and whether certain areas were of strategic and local importance for employment. The discussion was mainly driven by developers who wanted to convert more offices into flats, particularly at Bartley Wood in Hook, and Hook Parish Council who questioned Hart’s policy criteria and consistency with national policy.  

The discussion on Retail and Town Centres largely addressed questions about redevelopment and regeneration of urban centres, mainly Fleet Town Centre and Hook.  

The main participant was a representative of the ‘Rural Hart Association’ who argued that Hart had not promoted regeneration particularly in Fleet town centre and therefore there was insufficient regeneration in the plan. 

Hart responded that when the call for sites was carried out no major regeneration sites were offered. The inspector questioned whether it would be appropriate and sound for a plan to rely on sites that neither a developer nor an owner was promoting.  Hart pointed out that it does have policies that promote regeneration sites and that discussion with landowners had not resulted in further major town centre regeneration sites being offered.

The examination continues tomorrow.

Detail

Matter 9: Economic Development  

This was addressed in the morning session.

Policy on New Employment (ED1).  Questions were raised about the basis on which the need for employment land had been assessed and whether the evidence base was up-to-date (mostly based on 2016 figures).  This is a constant argument as time moves on. There was a discussion about whether the economic climate and outlook has changed significantly since then. Figures quoted show 11% of office space is currently unused in Hart.  Hart responded that this is a long-term plan and that the Employment Land Review had been undertaken jointly and agreed with Rushmoor, and while being driven by long-term trends, should not be driven by short-term fluctuations. There was no evidence that it was not sound.

Hart confirmed that it has raised an Article 4 Direction to restrict the automatic granting of office conversions under ‘permitted development rights’.  An article 4 direction restricts the scope of permitted development rights either in relation to a particular area or site, or a particular type of development anywhere in the authority’s area. Where an article 4 direction is in effect, a planning application may be required for development that would otherwise have been permitted.  Hart’s direction was consulted on in May to June 2018 and confirmed. 

In discussion Hart confirmed that its policy supports its objectives by maintaining a supply of sites for employment but some minor amendments to the wording could be accommodated.

Policy on Safeguarding Employment Land and Premises (ED2).  Six strategically-important employment sites and 13 locally-important employment sites are identified in the plan. The promoters of office conversions in Bartley Wood (Hook) argued that the site is not strategically important and is declining. It was also argued that many offices in Hart are older properties that are not attractive or expensive to refurbish.  Hart argued that it has to look long-term and provide flexibility for future use, that office use is only one kind of employment and there are others, and that offices are capable of being refurbished (as has been done with some at Bartley Wood and as currently underway in Ancells Business Park) or being divided and sublet if regarded as too large.  There was a suggestion that Bartley Wood could be downgraded to a locally-important site for Hook which could provide more flexibility but would degrade the site’s potential for future employment. 

The Inspector discussed the criteria for maintaining and protecting both strategic and local employment sites and whether they were flexible enough. Hart proposed some corrections to site boundaries and agreed to refer to the Policies map in its policies.

There is no policy on protection of smaller employment sites which nevertheless contribute to supply of employment opportunities.  

There were no major points raised on the policy on the Rural Economy (ED3).  

Matter 10: Retail and Town Centres

This was addressed in the afternoon session and in practice focussed on town centre development at Fleet town centre.

The main participant was a representative of the ‘Rural Hart Association’ with the thrust of the argument being that investment should go into regeneration of urban centres rather than new developments or a new settlement.

Policy on Town, District and Local Centres (ED4) and Policy on Fleet Town Centre (ED5) and Policy on District and Local Centres (ED6)

The examination discussed the methods used to forecast the need for retail space and how it can be delivered in the main centres of Fleet and Hook and the smaller local centres such as Yateley, Blackwater etc. 

RHA argued that Hart had not promoted regeneration and therefore there was insufficient regeneration in the plan. Their study showed that even on a few sites you could provide Hart with 1,000 homes in Fleet town centre eliminating the need for the new settlement. These arguments have been published before on web sites opposed to the new settlement.

Hart responded that when the call for sites was carried out no major regeneration sites were offered. The inspector asked the RHA to explain how a plan that relied on regeneration sites that neither a developer nor an owner was promoting could be sound and asked how could Hart's local plan rely on sites that were not being offered. 

The RHA argued that Hart had produced a ‘hostile environment’ that discouraged owners and developers from coming forward.  Hart pointed out the policies that promoted regeneration sites including the changes that had been made specifically to include the option of mixed retail, office and residential sites.  In further discussion Hart stated that despite further discussions with the agents for the main site that RHA were using to demonstrate their point, the site had not been promoted.

A number of points were discussed regarding the need for retail floor space in local centres as well as the main town centres. 

Discussion of Policies SS1 and SS2, deferred from the first week, have been rescheduled.  The examination continues tomorrow to a revised timetable which is available here: 

https://www.hart.gov.uk/sites/default/files/1_Residents/Programme%20v3.pdf.

More detail here: http://www.faceit-group.org/community/face-it-group-13510/the-hart-local-plan/

Day 3

Summary

Today addressed the important Matter 4: The Spacial Strategy of New Housing.

The main discussions were on policy SS3 regarding policy for the new settlement and policy SS2 on Hartland Village. 

The new settlement policy is clearly very important for everyone, the number of people round the table reflected this and the Inspector prioritised this in the running order. 

Hart and the promoters of the new settlement were supporting the policy with all the other developers, Winchfield Parish Council and others criticising it as unsound.

The inspector examined whether policy SS3 was sound and whether a new settlement would be deliverable, with arguments on both sides, and he considered whether the policy to produce a Development Plan Document can be sound without having the detail available now. 

The key arguments for and against the settlement policy were all ones we have heard before. Hart argued that none of the statutory consultees have identified show- stopping issues, there are solutions to the most significant constraints, and the Development Plan Document is itself a planning process that would provide the detail required for planning decisions. Criticisms included a policy with no defined or quantified requirement, weakness in the case for a new secondary school, lack of detailed evidence and potential conflict with the Winchfield Neighbourhood Plan.

The arguments for the policy were mainly that ŸHart as a whole wishes to get away from short-termism and create a long-term sustainable future ŸHart is trying to provide a community with facilities rather than another housing estate Ÿthere is no short-term housing crisis in Hart so there is time for proper planning Ÿlonger-term planning allows infrastructure providers the time they need to plan and prepare for the infrastructure improvements needed in the District.

The arguments against were mainly that Ÿit is not proven that it is needed for housing numbers, school places, etc. Ÿit is not proven that it is deliverable in terms of infrastructure, environmental impact, etc. Ÿit will not work due to geographical divisions of the area of search into three areas by the railway line and M3, other constraints and some land in the middle which is not available. 

No conclusion was reached but the inspector will need to make a decision in his report.

Discussion of Policies SS1 and SS2 was deferred.

The examination continues on the 4th December.

In detail

Due to the large interest in the discussion of Policy SS3 for the New Settlement, the Inspector changed the running order so that this part of Matter 4 could be discussed first.

The discussion started on the topic of whether there was a need for a new settlement in the plan period (to 2032).  Hart acknowledged its already stated position that, if the housing supply and demand numbers in the plan are upheld (discussed yesterday), there is no need for the deliveryof the new settlement in the current plan period.  Hart pointed out that it had an obligation to provide long-term planning and the plan period to 2032 was only 13 years.  Therefore there was a requirement for planningfor the new settlement as long-term planning is needed for the infrastructure and other aspects of the new settlement and this is what Policy SS3 is for.

The suggestion that some houses could be delivered half way through the plan period, starting about 2024, was discussed.  This is contingent on agreement on housing numbers and trajectory but Hart acknowledged that this would be unlikely given current understanding.  Critics therefore argued that the planning didn’t need to start now but could wait for a planning review later.

Hart explained that it was looking to provide a community and facilities not just housing numbers. These included such things as a doctor’s surgery, primary and secondary school, facilities for young people, families and retirees, as well as community facilities, transport links as part of its long-term vision. It is not ‘unsound’ to look longer-term and it has an obligation to do so. However it is not clear whether ‘long-term’ means ‘beyond the planning period’.

It was argued that the policy was unsound because it provides a blocking clause on other developments if they would prejudice delivery of the new settlement. Therefore developers argued that their developments including further urban extensions should be considered.  

The need for a new secondary school for Hart was discussed.  This inspector challenged that part of Hart’s justification for the new settlement is to support a new secondary school, as existing housing must bring with it a supply of secondary education.  Hampshire education authority were present and described the constraints on secondary school provision at existing sites, as well as pointing out that although some increase in provision is coming forwards, a demand forecast and some partial funding does not provide a site for a new school and associated facilities. Calthorpe Park School is the only one with any capacity for further expansion but it already has issues, whereas provision of a new school would be consistent with longer-term planning for secondary education. Critics said that there is a wider need for a non-catchment school and therefore its location should not be prejudged to be within a new settlement. Overall the evidence for this argument, both for and against, seemed weak.

The inspector examined whether a new settlement would be deliverable and there was much discussion about this including the land available and the constraints on the area.  This was considered important because without being deliverable the policy is meaningless and constrains future options. Hart argued that the policy is sound because there was a large area of search and the policy allows time to develop the detail through production of a Development Plan Document which itself will be subject to planning guidelines and examination.

The arguments for deliverability were mainly that Ÿthere is a large area of search Ÿthere is already land available with sufficient sites under the control of the delivery consortium Ÿthere is time for proper planning Ÿearly consultation with infrastructure providers has not indicated any show-stopping issues Ÿthe timescale allows providers to plan and prepare for the infrastructure improvements needed.

The arguments against deliverability were mainly that Ÿthere is no evidence base to show it is deliverable Ÿlack of evidence against something is not evidence for it Ÿit will not work as a new community due to geographical divisions into three areas by the railway line and M3 Ÿother constraints such as a gas pipeline and access across the railway and M3 Ÿsome land in the middle is not available Ÿpotential for coalescence with other settlements Ÿimpact on the rural nature of Hart and therefore a conflict with the vision for Hart Ÿpotential conflict with the Winchfield Neighbourhood Plan, depending on site(s) chosen. 

Hart argued that the alleged lack of evidence for something is also not evidence against it.  If there were issues with delivery the Regulation 19 consultation would have brought out the evidence for those issues. In fact a summary of deliverability was delivered in March 2018 for the Regulation 19 consultation.  The statutory consultees have not identified show stoppers, there are solutions to the most significant constraints, and the DPD was itself a planning process that would being the detail forward.  

Hart has made an application for ‘Garden Community’ funding to support planning for the new settlement but as the detail is designated Confidential it could not be discussed.

There was some debate about how far specific planning policy applies to the Harta policy to undertake a search and produce a scheme, or multiple schemes (for different sites). As this is not a specific scheme (development proposal) some planning policy statements do not apply.  This was not clear but the Inspector acknowledged that his decision will be treated as providing or refusing approval in principal for the new settlement through inclusion of Policy SS3 in the Local Plan.

The inspector moved back to the running order to discuss Policy SS1 on the spacial distribution within the district.  This considered Hart’s definition of settlement hierarchy and whether it was consistent with the National Planning Policy Framework.  

The discussion also looked at this policy in relation to the Sustainability Appraisal (discussed yesterday) and whether it will lead to the most sustainable pattern of housing growth. The needs of rural areas were also considered.

Finally Policy SS2 for Hartland Village was discussed.  This considered whether the proposal could be delivered, although as planning permission has been granted this scheme was already in progress.  Although this is a brownfield site, the need and costs of clearing up and decontaminating the site have led to concern about the relative lack of affordable homes included in the proposal. This concern will be addressed in Matter 6 (affordable housing).  

The Inspector will make his judgement known in his report after the examination has closed. 

Policy SS1 on the spacial distribution within the district and Policy SS2 for Hartland Village were not discussed and were deferred until a later session.  As a result the examination will extend into a 10th day which will be scheduled for 18 December.

The examination takes a week’s break before continuing on the 4th December

Day 2

Summary

Today the examination discussed in detail the need for housing and the numbers of homes to be planned for.  (Matter 2: the objectively assessed need for housing and the housing requirement).

The Inspector confirmed the rules on which method is to be used to work out the need for housing, which is based on an ‘Objectively Assessed Housing Need’.  

The examination addressed how the numbers had been calculated, the basis of various factors used in calculating the numbers and how Hart had or should have applied them. 

Hart reinforced its position that it has followed government guidelines, which however have been changing. It also recognised that while it wanted to deliver affordable housing, its brownfield-first policy may have compromised the delivery so far of affordable housing (for example in the case of office conversions in Hook and Fleet and planning housing at Hartland Village) which do not have to provide affordable units.

There was also considerable discussion about whether Hart should build houses to satisfy ‘unmet need’ from neighbouring areas, particularly Surrey Heath, who have fallen behind in their house-building.

The examination continues on Thursday then continues on the 4th December.

In detail

The Inspector reasserted that, under the transitionary arrangements between the 2012 and the 2018 versions of the NPPF, the 2012 policy and methodology should be used. This means that the Government’s new ‘standard methodology’ which states a base number for housing need, allocated by central government, cannot be used for Hart’s Local Plan.  Instead the Hart Local Plan must revert to the Objectively Assessed Housing Need (OAHN) based on an independent assessment of local housing need.  This assessment is based on a Strategic Housing Assessment in a strategic market area (SMA) comprising Hart, Rushmoor and Surrey Heath and is also the basis of their local plans. 

There was much discussion about the uplift that hart has applied to its share of the OAHN which is to take into account contingency and to provide capacity for more affordable housing.  

Although Hart had largely followed government guidelines, various arguments were put forward about whether a 33% uplift can be justified, what it is based on, and whether it would actually deliver any more affordable housing.   The inspector refused to be drawn into a discussion about whether the government guidelines were right.  

Hart reinforced its position that it has followed government guidelines, which however have been changing, and has been consistent in its desire to provide affordable housing throughout the planning consultations.  It also recognised that its brownfield-first policy may have compromised the delivery so far of affordable housing (for example in the case of office conversions and at Hartland Village).

There was a long discussion about the need to provide homes for the unmet housing requirement from Surrey Heath under the duty to cooperate.  Surrey Heath is constrained by Green Belt and the Special Protection Area and its neighbours are also constrained by Green Belt.  Surrey Heath’s plan is less advanced that Hart’s and its numbers of housing supply and demand are shifting, in particular their plan will be submitted in 2019 meaning that it will use the new ‘standard methodology’ although that itself may change or be subject to interpretation.  The trajectory of housing supply (i.e. when new homes become available over the plan period) also does not necessarily align between the districts in the SMA. 

The discussion considered whether the calculation of OAHN and its allocation to Hart was considered robust. Various developers argued that housing numbers should be increased, or that various numbers of overflow from Surrey Heath should be committed to by Hart.  Winchfield Parish Council and the ‘Rural Hart Association’ argued that there was already an oversupply and that the numbers were larger than required and could not be justified.

Due to these uncertainties, Hart has built in a contingency but not based on a specific figures. The Inspector may put an obligation on Hart for a review of their numbers after the Local Plan has been adopted, when other factors are clearer.

The Inspector will continue to gather evidence but, apart from areas which are agreed in the examination, will make his judgement known in his report after the examination has closed. 

The examination continues on Thursday then takes a week’s break before continuing on the 4th December. The timetable is here 

https://www.hart.gov.uk/sites/default/files/4_The_Council/Policies_and_published_documents/Planning_policy/Local_Plan/Programme%20v1.pdf

Day 1

Summary

Today the examination opened with an introduction to the proceedings and to the Local Plan. The focus for the first day was the legal soundness of the plan (Matter 1: Legal Requirements).

The first matter was the duty to cooperate with neighbouring and other authorities which caused no major legal objections. As this is where the plan failed in 2012 this is probably good news.

Much of the rest of the day was spent assessing the soundness of the sustainability assessment. This was the work that ranked the different strategic options on a number of criteria and recommended the current choice of strategy.

A number of the developers present pointed out issues with the approach which might have resulted in a different strategy, which might then have resulted in their site being considered differently.  The most vocal were those with sites which would fall under the urban extension option. Issues discussed included methodology, biodiversity, education and other impacts.

The inspector also covered the Vision and Strategic Objectives of the Local Plan.

The examination continues on Wednesday and Thursday then continues on the 4th December.

In Detail

This morning the long awaited examination in public of the local plan opened in the council offices. This is an important step in the process of getting a local plan in place and the last major hurdle in that process. 

The examination is run by a planning inspector he goes through all the significant objections that have been raised in the regulation 19 consultation and those parties who have requested to be present are represented.  You can see the issues and the parties that have asked to be present for each session on the web at https://www.hart.gov.uk/sites/default/files/1_Residents/Matters%20and%20Issues%20for%20the%20Examination%20v3.pdf

This morning the issues were about the duty to cooperate which seem to pass successfully in the first 30 minutes which is good news. Last time our plan failed in 2012 in this issue and the inspector threw it out. So good news on the first hurdle. 

The rest of the morning was spent on arguments regarding the sustainability assessment. This is the work that ranked the different strategic options on a number of criteria and recommended the current choice of strategy.

Most of the people round the table were representing developers whose sites were not included in the plan. They are not allowed to complain that their site was excluded, but can take issue with the technical approach that Hart have taken. Needless to say they were pointing out issues with the approach which, if Hart had treated them differently, might have resulted in a different strategy which would have meant their site would be treated more favourably. 

It was notable that West Hook, Owens Farm, Pale Lane, a phase 2 of Martin Grants Watery Lane development were the most vocal. All of these sites are urban extensions, which is not the preferred strategic option agreed in Hart’s plan.

The inspector also covered the Vision and Strategic Objectives of the Local Plan, in particular whether the vision and strategic objectives were justified and consistent with national policy.

The Inspector will continue to gather evidence but, apart from areas which are agreed in the examination, will make his judgement known in his report after the examination has closed. 

The examination continues tomorrow and Thursday then takes a week’s break before continuing on the 4thDecember the timetable is here 

https://www.hart.gov.uk/sites/default/files/4_The_Council/Policies_and_published_documents/Planning_policy/Local_Plan/Programme%20v1.pdf

 

Examination In Public (November 2018)

The Local Plan will now be subject to Examination In Public by a Planning Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State who will make recommendations on its validity.

The Timetable for the Examination In Public of the Hart District Council Local Plan (Strategy and Sites 2016-2032) has now been published by Hart. See the draft programme of hearing sessions on the Hart website here:

The Examination is planned to run for 3 weeks: 20-22 November, 04-06 December and 11-13 December 2018. It will take place in the Council Offices.


There are 13 'Matters' (legal topics and issues) that have been identified for determination:
1. Legal Requirements
2. The Vision and Strategic Objectives
3. Housing: the objectively assessed need for housing and the housing requirement [housing numbers]
4. Housing: the spatial distribution of new housing [includes Policy SS3 on new settlement]
5. Housing: trajectory, deliverability and housing land supply
6. Affordable Housing
7. Housing: provision for gypsies, travellers and travelling showpeople
8. Other Housing Types and Related Policies 
9. Economic Development 
10. Retail and Town Centres
11. Infrastructure
12. The Environment
13. Monitoring Framework.

Details here: 
https://www.hart.gov.uk/sites/default/files/4_The_Council/Policies_and_published_documents/Planning_policy/Local_Plan/Matters%20and%20Issues.pdf

 

Local Plan Submitted (March 2018)

After agreement by Hart Council in January 2018, the Local Plan was submitted to the Government in March 2018.

The Plan sets out where new homes will be built. It also has policies to protect the environment, deliver new infrastructure and promote the economy. The Plan already takes into account comments from previous consultations. 

Consultation History

During this stage of the Local Plan residents and other stakeholders now have the opportunity to give their final comments on the plan. Comments must be made between Friday 9 February and be received no later than 4pm on Monday 26 March 2018.

The consultation documents and guidance on how to make a comment are available at www.hart.gov.uk/Local-Plan-Publication-2018

Representations can be submitted via email to planningpolicy@hart.gov.uk or by post to Planning Policy Team, Hart District Council, Harlington Way, Fleet, Hampshire, GU51 4AE. 

Your representations will be considered by a Planning Inspector, and should relate to legal compliance, duty to cooperate and tests of soundness.

For latest information from Hart District Council on the emerging local plan – click on this link

HISTORY OF THE LOCAL PLAN FOR HART DISTRICT

PURPOSE OF THE LOCAL PLAN AND CORE STRATEGY

The Local Plan is one of the main mechanisms for determining where development will take place in Hart District, how many homes need to be built, and what the impacts will be on local infrastructure such as roads.  There needs to be a Local Plan to determine how many houses are built and where and to determine the planning authority’s response to proposed development.  While Hart has no plan, there is a danger that developers will be able to build almost anywhere they wish.

The Local Plan  consists of a number of documents of which the Core Strategy is the most important.  This takes a broad look at the future of places within Hart District and considers where changes should be made. With the exception of certain strategic land allocations, the Core Strategy does not contain detailed proposals about where specific development sites should be located as these will be identified in later documents once the Core Strategy has been adopted.

A document called the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) determines where it might be possible for development to take place, based on certain constraints on the siting of development and on the current potential availability of land suitable for development.  The SHLAA is updated from time to time as certain land becomes already developed, or ceases to be available, or potential new sites become available for development.

The Local Plan does not deal with all aspects of development, however, as some major decisions are taken by Hampshire County Council, such as education and healthcare provision.

The Local Plan has been developed over a number of years and was previously called the Local Development Framework.

The plan in its draft form was unanimously approved by all elected Hart District Councillors on 25 October 2012.

HISTORY OF PUBLIC CONSULTATION

Between 14 November 2012 and 07 January 2013 Hart District Council published for consultation the Pre-Submission version of the Hart Local Plan Core Strategy 2011-2029 and supporting documents. The period allocated for responses to the draft Local Plan in the ‘Public Consultation’ closed on 07 January 2013.  Many thanks to those of you who supported the consultation by making your own submissions to the council.

In total over 550 responses were received. The main concern for local residents was the proposed growth in new housing and its impact on infrastructure and the environment. There was also support for the plan, especially from those opposed to development at Grove Farm, (east of Hitches Lane Fleet), and at Winchfield, which the Council rejected as areas for major development.

After great local efforts, the Local Plan now proposes to share new housing development across Hart District – not concentrated around Fleet, CrookhamVillage and Church Crookham as in the earlier draft. We sincerely hope that the volume and quality of responses considered by Hart District Council and the consequent revisions to the Plan will show that the Local Plan has a large body of support and is largely regarded as ‘sound’.

The independent planning inspector will consider all of the comments received and check that the plan follows all the necessary rules.

The aim is for the plan to be adopted by the end of this year.

There needs to be a Local Plan published as soon as possible, to dictate how many houses are built and where. While Hart has no plan, there is a danger that developers will be able to build almost anywhere they wish.

If the Local Plan fails the examination phase and is not published, this would allow developers to build where they wish almost immediately. But if it is approved and adopted, the developers will have to wait 15 years before they can try again.

LOCAL PLAN SUBMITTED TO INSPECTOR

On 28th March 2013 Hart District Council submitted the Hart District Local Plan: Core Strategy 2011-2029 and supporting documents to the Secretary of State under Regulation 22 of the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012.

This follows the ‘Publication’ stage (Wednesday 14th November 2012 to Monday 7th January 2013) including consultation on the Pre-Submission Draft, during which representations to the plan were received.

A total of 1,000 representations had been made on the Pre-Submission Draft of the local plan by 511 individuals or organisations by the time the consultation closed. Of these 319 considered the Core Strategy not to be sound or legally compliant.

The representations, including those made by FACE IT (numbers 0230 and 0254), can all be seen in the ‘Examination Library’ on the Hart website at:

http://www.hart.gov.uk/index/top-planning/planning-policy/local_plan_core_strategy/representations.htm

A number of changes have been proposed to the plan as a result of the public consultation and the submission includes two schedules of proposed changes – minor and main, and a number of supporting documents.

The Core Strategy was then the subject of an examination by an independent inspector appointed by the Secretary of State.

EXAMINATION IN PUBLIC OPENS

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, appointed Kevin Ward BA (Hons) MRTPI as the Inspector to conduct the Examination into the compliance and soundness of the Core Strategy.

The Hart Core Strategy Examination in Public opened on 11 June 2013.

The Inspector (Kevin Ward) held a Pre-Hearing Meeting at 10.00am on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 in the Council Chamber of Hart District Council Civic Offices in Fleet.

The purpose of the meeting was for the Inspector to explain the procedural and administrative matters relating to the examination and provide an opportunity to enable those who wished to participate in the hearings to understand how the public hearings part of the examination would proceed.  It was not an opportunity to discuss issues relating to the soundness of the Core Strategy, nor to consider the merits of any of the representations made to the Council.

FACE IT sent a representative to the meeting to hear the presentations and understand the Examination process however we were not invited to present (in fact, no-one supporting the Council’s position was allowed to participate).

At the meeting the Inspector outlined the scope and purpose of the examination and how representations would be considered.

Here are the Inspector’s notes of the meeting:

http://www.hart.gov.uk/hart_core_strategy_inspector_phm_note_of_meeting.pdf

Further details of the Examination and hearings with the Inspector can be found on the Local Plan Core Strategy Examination web page.

http://www.hart.gov.uk/index/top-planning/planning-policy/local_plan_core_strategy_examination.htm

MATTERS AND ISSUES

The Examination examined and attempted to resolve a number of Matters (issues), some of which were serious questions on the validity of the process used to create the plan and its resulting soundness.

The Matters to be addressed by the Examination can be found here:

http://www.hart.gov.uk/hart_core_strategy_inspector_s_matters_and_issues_v2_-_14_june.pdf

In his guidance notes, Mr Ward said one of the purposes of the examination was to determine whether the council has complied with its duty to co-operate with other local authorities and bodies in preparing the strategy.

Mr Ward identified significant issues in relation to the duty to co-operate, particularly in terms of overall housing provision, and also identified significant soundness issues in terms of overall housing provision.

His findings in respect of these two matters could have very serious implications for the examination.

INITIAL HEARINGS

Two initial hearing sessions were held on 9 and 10 July 2013 to deal with the two fundamental issues of Duty to Cooperate and Soundness in housing provision. Hart District Council defended the position laid out in its Core Strategy to the Inspector and other invited representatives.

For a summary of the issues and Hart’s position see  http://www.gethampshire.co.uk/news/s/2135969_harts_local_plan_criticised_by_inspector.

The inspector will then take a view as to whether it is appropriate to continue with the further scheduled sessions, set to start on September 3.

FACE IT sent an observer to the initial hearings on the two main matters.

Day 1 concentrated on Hart’s ‘duty to co-operate’ with other Councils within theThamesBasin.  Thankfully, Rushmoor, Surrey Heath,Waverley, Wokingham andBracknell backed Hart as being a Council they have and will be working with for future planning and policy implementation to achieve universal compliance. However, most Councils are currently working at a different rate and at different stages in planning involving their Core strategy, variously based on the South East Plan and Strategic Housing Assessments.

Hart District Council responded to questions and queries.  The zero net migration policy, used as the basis for the plan and calculating projected housing requirements, may show a shortfall and reveal unmet needs for housing. This policy was scrutinised in minute detail and was a proper examination of procedures.

Day 2 addressed the assessed housing needs in the Core Strategy,  A number of factors affect the assessment of housing needs and provision including appropriate assessment, SANGS (Sites of Alternative Natural Green Space), meeting housing needs and the presumption in favour of sustainable development in the National Planning Policy Framework set out by the Government in April 2012.

Developers queried Hart’s proposed annual house building figure of 236 houses and why Hart continued to use the figure (of 220 houses per year) specified in the South East Plan from some years ago.  Alternative assessments can provide a figure of around 4956 houses for the period 2006-2026, which is about 250 per year. Based on all the information available the Inspector needs to assess whether the Hart approach is sound.

The Inspector will make a decision as soon as possible (with a probable date of 19th July as to whether he will hold the further hearings scheduled for September 2013.

OUTCOME OF THE EXAMINATION IN PUBLIC

The Inspector wrote to the Council on 26th July 2013 with his initial conclusions. For further details see the Local Plan latest updates web page on Hart’s website.  Due to the outcome from those first two hearings, the main body of hearings scheduled for September have now been cancelled.

The Examination resulted in the current draft of the Local Plan: Core Strategy being declared ‘unsound’.  This is disappointing because the FACE-IT position was that the plan was probably the best set of compromises given the circumstances and constraints that Hart District Council faced in drawing up the plan.

 

WAY FORWARD FOR THE LOCAL PLAN

The good news is that the Inspector did not find the plan fundamentally unsound (it has not been totally thrown out).  But during the Examination raise some questions about how the cooperation with neighbouring authorities could be demonstrated and how the evaluation of the various options for calculating the number of houses required had been undertaken.

The plan continues to be developed and we can assure you that Hart have some good people working on these issues to bring the plan and process back into line. We remain positive that there can still be a good outcome for this area.

In September 2013, Hart proposed its way forward for the Local Plan

“Hart District Council is continuing to develop a new Local Plan which will set out the long-term planning policy framework for Hart until 2029.”

See the Hart News of September 2013

Hart Withdraws Local Plan Core Strategy and implements Interim Strategy

On 30 September 2013 Hart District Council withdrew the Local Plan: Core Strategy under section 22(1) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004.

The Council has adopted an Interim Housing Delivery Strategy to guide development in the District whilst a new Local Plan is being prepared:

Interim Housing Delivery Strategy

NEW CONSULTATION ON THE LOCAL PLAN

Hart is now in the process of creating its new plan and is looking at options for the allocation of housing.  The timetable for preparing a new local plan is set out in the Local Development Scheme: Third Revision.

The documents for the Hart Planning Consultation are at the Hart website .

There was an exhibition at the Civic Offices in Fleet on 30th September 2014.  The exhibition exhibited the relevant documents (mostly available on-line) and there were Hart officers  on hand and paper copies to take home.  The closing date for comments was 10th October 2014.

Hart is now working with neighbouring Councils Rushmoor and Surrey Heath to produce a Strategic Market Housing Assessment (SHMA) to determine the number of houses required for the area.  In addition Hart is producing a housing distribution strategy which is looking at the options for where housing should be built around the District.  The new plan is expected in its draft form in 2015.

Housing Options Paper – It sets out how much housing growth there should be and options for where it should take place up to 2032. The consultation was open between 14 August and 5pm 10 October 2014. Click here to view the responses to this consultatation. 

The Hart Housing Strategy was open to consultation between Tuesday 14 October and Tuesday 28 October 2014. The strategic housing market assessment was published in December 2014 and can be viewed here

All the latest news from HDC on progress of the new local plan can be seen on their website