Hook Action Against Overdevelopment was formed when it became apparent that the village of Hook was under attack from multiple directions. Villagers were aware that 500 dwellings in North East Hook were included within the draft Local Plan. Whilst this number represented an unfair proportion of Hart’s housing need being directed at Hook, the need for additional housing is understood and the majority of residents were accepting.
However, in late 2013, multiple applications started appearing for large developments in Hook over and above what was included in the Local Plan, and on green field sites outside the settlement boundary. We became aware of different groups of residents who were independently becoming concerned as they heard about one development after another; Reading Road, Brown Croft, Hop Garden Road – and this on top of a regional-size Sainsburys, and talk of the North East Hook development being not 500 houses, but 550, 600 or more. There was also a lack of information and understanding; residents did not necessarily realise that these developments were in addition to the 500 new homes in North East Hook.
Several concerned residents started to look into the situation further, attending both Parish and District council meetings, talking to the Parish and District Councillors, writing letters to the council and our MP to seek clarification, and reading extensively. The more you find out about the situation that Hook is in, the more concerning it becomes.
It is clear that Hook is not alone with this problem either, there are communities up and down the country experiencing the same situation. The root cause of the problems is the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) that has been introduced by this Government as it strives to boost the economy and growth through housebuilding. This puts huge pressure on councils to approve applications from developers, and the situation is exacerbated by the lack of a Local Plan. Hart District does not have a Local Plan – its draft plan was rejected.
Hook Action Against Overdevelopment was formed by the disparate groups from across the village joining forces and agreeing objectives as follows:
- To oppose all development in Hook until a fair, reasonable and sustainable plan for the village has been agreed with residents
- Work to reshape the new Hart Local Plan
- Explore the possibility of developing a Neighbourhood Plan
- Keep Hook residents aware of the issues and developments
- Feed into local, regional and national organisations to apply pressure to the Government to reform the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework)
We are NOT against all development; we are against OVER development.
Uncontrolled development on this scale will affect all Hook residents, not just those living near the new houses. If the applications currently submitted are all approved, Hook will grow by 25% in three years, and there are no guarantees of any additional infrastructure to support this growth, or that there won’t be more applications. When Daryl Phillips (Corporate Director of Planning for Hart) spoke at the Hook Annual Village Meeting this week, he made clear that it is the developers who are currently in control of the situation, not the council – not a good position to be in. It is vital that all residents in Hook know what is going on, and understand how and when they can make their voice heard. We don’t expect that everyone will agree with us, but we want everyone to have the facts.
On 14th March the local District Councillors arranged a meeting at Basingstoke Country Hotel for James Arbuthnot MP to speak to concerned residents; Mr Arbuthnot was joined by Cllr Stephen Parker of Hart District Council, Maria Miller MP and also Ranil Jayawardena (prospective Conservative candidate for North East Hook since Mr Arbuthnot will be standing down in 2015). More than 400 people attended, with many more being turned away due to lack of space. Hook residents were astounded to hear about the situation in which Hook finds itself, and with the response at both district and parliamentary level coming across as “there’s nothing we can do”. Residents made their anger very plain, and with the only seed of hope being that Mr Arbuthnot promised to invite the Planning Minister Nick Boles MP to come and talk to Hook residents. There is still no firm date for that meeting, and the earliest it is likely to be is late June – well after the forthcoming elections and by which time many of these unwanted additional developments will have been approved.
Hook Action Against Overdevelopment has wide support from within the village and beyond. Hundreds of people have requested that we keep them informed of developments and others are following our recently launched Facebook page. This is a clear indication that the people of Hook want to be kept informed of what is going on and that this was not previously happening.