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Hart’s draft Local Plan lacks coherency or regard for the countryside

  Murrell Green - fields where housing is proposed; a secondary school and road are planned for the surrounding mature woodland and lakes Murrell Green - fields where housing is proposed; a secondary school and road are planned for the surrounding mature woodland and lakes Nicola Revolta

24 May 2017

CPRE’s (Campaign to Protect Rural England) North East Hampshire District Group has reviewed Hart District Council’s Draft Local Plan: Strategy and Sites, in the context of relevant policies to protect, promote and enhance the area’s towns, villages and countryside. It says that the countryside’s intrinsic value to quality of life, to farming, biodiversity, the economy and to landscape must be reviewed in the current Plan.

Planning experts from CPRE’s District Group for North East Hampshire are concerned that the Local Plan has no coherent strategy but is instead a series of tactics to deliver a housing and development supply without any recognition of the role of countryside and the value of the natural environment. The Group also express concern that the detail in the Plan is not sustainable and the policies unbalanced.

Chairman of the Group, Chris James says: “The rural areas seem to have been completely missed in that there is no recognition of the role or function of the countryside and rural communities in this part of the county. Hart’s Vision ignores landscape value, the value of historic or heritage assets, as well as the social and health value the countryside provides for recreation.

CPRE wishes to see the benefits of a green back drop to the lives of all new and existing residents made explicit and promoted, otherwise countryside becomes fragile and increasingly vulnerable to future development.”

The Group observes that employment site assessment and policies appear to be ill-considered, especially in the rural areas. There are no criteria to support the policies and this results in some sites that employ few people being designated as important for jobs yet other vibrant employment sites in the villages are allocated for housing. This is in direct conflict with the Plan’s aim to protect employment sites particularly in the rural areas.

Murrell Green, which lies close to Hartley Wintney, Winchfield and Hook, is a potential greenfield settlement for 1,800 houses and a secondary school. The site contains endangered woodland, ancient lanes and hedgerows, and lakes and ponds. The proposals show no regard for these natural features and there are concerns about water supply for the high level of proposed housing.

CPRE also questions how this new community will function in the wider context of North East Hampshire and says it does not seem to be part of a broader, explicit locational strategy for the area, and without that vision it fears that the surrounding countryside and protection of valuable sites has been forgotten. CPRE has similar concerns about the major housing development, Hartland Park between Fleet and Farnborough.

CPRE hopes to meet Hart’s incoming Cabinet Member for Planning to discuss these issues. The Draft Local Plan public consultation runs to 9th June 2017.

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