The series of special Council meetings in the first week of January resulted in the proposed new Local Plan being approved to progress to the final “Regulation 19” public consultation and then on to an Examination in Public by a Planning Inspector. This is good news for Hook and for Hart. We will advise in due course when the public consultation starts. Having an adopted Local Plan is critical to Hart regaining control over planning policy and although it is moving forward there is likely to be continued opposition from some quarters to adopting it. Were they successful in this regard, Hart may lose control over planning for many more years.
The Local Plan for the period to 2032 does not require or mandate a new settlement in the period to meet the current housing target, but the policy of preparation for a new settlement is included in the plan so that any work on planning in this plan period for the next takes a suitable course. It would also allow work on a new settlement to start earlier than 2032 should it be necessary to meet targets due to under-delivery or if the Planning Inspector determines that the target is too low. A new settlement is fully in line with the view of the overwhelming majority of Hook residents who replied to previous public consultations and the view of the population of Hart generally.
At the meeting of the Full Council there were attempts by some Conservative Councillors to change the proposed plan by removing any suggestion of a possible new settlement for the future. With only a small time window in which to complete the necessary consultation before local elections in May, not only would any significant change have risked the Local Plan being put in place any time this year, removal of the idea of a new settlement would also have ensured urban extensions for Hook and other towns decades into the future. In the end only 9 out of the 32 councillors present voted to remove the new settlement from the plan. Of the councillors representing Hook, Councillor Burchfield (Conservative) voted for the amendment to remove the new settlement from the plan.
A second amendment was proposed by a Conservative Councillor to incorporate a pre-defined set of policies designed for Garden Cities. The documents had not been provided to councillors until shortly before the meeting but several councillors familiar with the policies described many of them as being duplicates of existing policies in the plan and others as inappropriate for Hart or a matter for later consideration. There was considerable suspicion that the last minute inclusion of the policies was a backdoor way to prevent a new settlement. But this amendment was also defeated by a similar margin to the first. Of the councillors representing Hook, Councillors Morris and Burchfield (both Conservative) voted for this amendment.
With both amendments discarded, Councillors could then debate and vote upon the originally proposed Local Plan document. In the event, the proposal to move forward was approved by 27 votes to 5. This is an overwhelming endorsement to move forward but it was clear from statements from the few voting against that they will continue to try to frustrate the process. All three District Councillors representing Hook, Councillor Leeson (Independent) and Councillors Morris and Burchfield (Conservative) voted for moving forward with the Local Plan.
Of the five Councillors (all Conservative) who voted against the proposed Local Plan, three represent Hartley Wintney, one represents Odiham and the other Yateley.
Thank you to everyone who made it to the full council meeting, the support from the community was clearly demonstrated. We will of course continue to bring you the latest news on the progress of the Local Plan, but one very important linked item for Hook is to have a Neighbourhood Plan in place. A Neighbourhood Plan enables a local community to define policies that help to control development in their area, that are more specific than the Local Plan defined by a planning authority.
As the Hart Local Plan has progressed, Hook Parish Council and a group of Hook volunteer residents have been developing an outline of a Neighbourhood Plan for Hook. This has involved gathering views from the Parish Councillors, Hook residents, Hook based businesses and people working in Hook.
The first full draft of the Hook Neighbourhood Plan will be available for public consultation from 15th January with documents and details available to be downloaded from http://neighbourhoodplan.hook.gov.uk. Paper copies will be available from the Parish Council offices.
There will be two public consultation sessions for you to attend where you can meet the local Hook group who have worked to develop the Plan thus far, ask questions, pass on your thoughts, make comments and understand the process further.
The 2 sessions are:
- Thursday 18th January 2018 at Elizabeth Hall from 6pm to 9pm
- Saturday 20th January 2018 at Hook Community Centre from 12noon to 4.30pm
Please do go along to one of these if you possibly can.