A company acting for developers have recently written to all Hart District Councillors, advising them that the developer responsible is about to bring forward a proposal for a new settlement at Winchfield as an alternative to the Murrell Green proposal that was put forward in the Draft Local Plan.
The Draft Local Plan only considered a 3,000+ dwelling settlement at Winchfield and so instead opted to propose an 1,800 dwelling site at Murrell Green due to it being easier to deliver within the Local Plan period. Doubts have since arisen over Murrell Green, with it being so close to Hook and therefore not really a separate settlement but also a high pressure gas pipeline running through the site almost exactly at the point where a school was shown positioned, constraining the site layout.
The letter from the agent acting on behalf of Winchfield developers states that they have a proposal for a smaller settlement of 1,800 dwellings at Winchfield. They say:
The site has the capacity to deliver at least 1,800 much needed homes for Hart in a highly sustainable location, close to both the M3 and Winchfield Train Station, with the capacity to deliver numerous benefits to the District, as well as to expand as required to meet future housing need of the District. This is in contrast to sites identified in the Local Plan, which would not be in a position to deliver vital community infrastructure and could lead to piecemeal development throughout Fleet and Hook as well a speculative development on greenfield land.
The entire site at Winchfield is controlled by a single consortium, including Gallaher, with no legal or technical constraints on the land, making this an easily deliverable site with scope for significant community benefits. What is more the site is far more conveniently located than the alternatives. Positioned close to Winchfield Train Station, the site is easily commutable for the children of Hook and Fleet.
The key benefit provided by Winchfield includes a 7-9 Form Entry secondary school, with capacity to expand in the future if required. This would provide capacity for around 1,050 pupils, with the new homes only generating c. 380 new pupils, meaning Winchfield can accommodate the existing and future secondary school need of the District.
Gallaher Estates will be submitting representations to the Local Plan consultation highlighting the benefits of Winchfield and the constraints of other sites which are currently allocated in the emerging Plan. The sites which have been allocated could not deliver the homes or school places Hart needs. This is particularly pertinent given Hart secondary schools will shortly be at full capacity.
We feel Winchfield provides the only opportunity to the deliver a new secondary school for Hart on a sustainable site which can deliver current and future housing need.
As we noted in our consideration of the Draft Local Plan, the settlement proposed for Murrell Green was not compared against alternative sites of the same size only against far smaller and far larger sites. This new proposal should now be compared against Murrell Green.