Update: North East Hampshire District Group

20th November 2019

News from North East Hampshire

The North East Hampshire Group covers the Borough of Rushmoor and the District of Hart.  Contact with our members in Rushmoor and representation on our Group by Councillors or representatives from Rushmoor Council has been somewhat spasmodic for the last few years and is currently almost non-existent.

We continue to meet monthly to discuss planning applications and development issues within the area, but we are desperately short of volunteers and keep on hitting brick walls that either please or upset our members, other opposition groups and representatives from one side or the other.

One example of this is that currently Hart still does not have an adopted Local Plan and although having an agreed housing allocation within the proposed plan are upsetting many of our residents and Parish Councils by pressing ahead, in collaboration with several developers, with feasibility studies to create a new “Garden Community” of up to 10,000 dwellings in the Winchfield and Murrell Green area.

This proposal is in addition to the already agreed housing numbers contained in the soon(?) to be adopted local plan and against the recommendations of the Local Plan Inspector who asked that mention of the so-called Garden Community should be removed from the plan prior to adoption.

Worse still is the fact that Hart District Council has made a submission to Government for a funding contribution towards the feasibility studies that are being carried out.  Guess what, the Government has given them a considerable grant.

Pressure groups within Hart that do not wish to see a 10,000 dwelling Garden Community built on green fields are proposing that some of these dwellings could be absorbed by existing communities such as the town of Fleet.

Residents of Fleet are not at all happy with this proposal and quite rightly point out that the roads are already gridlocked, the schools are already full, and the surgeries are currently struggling to cope.

It must also be acknowledged that even though the Government suggests that Brownfield sites should be developed before greenfield ones there is no legal requirement for developers to contribute towards any infra structure improvements in relation to such sites.  Maybe this needs to be addressed by Government.

Other groups are of the opinion that Fleet is a slowly dying town and that there is insufficient footfall to the shops to prevent closures and encourage new shops opening in the area.  Then there is the cost of parking, the lack of community facilities and all the other familiar grumbles.  Their solution to this is to enlarge the population of central Fleet and make it more vibrant and self-sustainable.

Added to all that has been said above, it also appears that Hart is currently failing to satisfy its own targets for Affordable Housing thus making it more difficult for the young in our community to afford to buy a home and help make the area more sustainable.

There is a strong feeling that many of the extra houses that are being built in the area will be bought by people moving out of the cities and into the countryside which helps to inflate house prices and make it even more difficult for the young of the area to afford to stay in the area where they have lived all their lives.  Thus, our countryside is under threat from large numbers of people moving in from other areas.

According to documents that we have seen it is proposed that the Community, including Parish Councils and other groups should be involved in the discussions and planning for this new Garden Community but to date it appears that all the planning and discussions with developers is taking place behind closed doors and is in the imagination of certain Councillors and Officers.

As a group we fully understand the concerns on all sides, but it is not creating a healthy situation and the Community that, in essence is paying for all this turmoil, is not being consulted in a meaningful way about the future of our area.

Perhaps the solution is to invite all the groups to get together and discuss the future of Hart in a cool, calm, meaningful manner but the fear is that if we were to arrange such a meeting the different factions would end up arguing and little would be achieved.  Maybe we need to find an experienced, strong and above all neutral facilitator who would be willing to set up such a meeting.

Any serious suggestions about such a project will be welcomed.  We already have a sponsor who would be willing to consider helping with the funding to hire a community centre for such a meeting.

The North East Hampshire Group is in urgent need of increased membership and new volunteers to join our one committee which meets midday for about two hours once a month to consider and respond to inappropriate planning applications to help protect the countryside we all love.

Alastair Clark

To get involved with the North East Hampshire District Group, please contact info@cprehampshire.org.uk

North East Hampshire