Fairfields Owens Farm Lane

Worrying News on Hook / Newnham Gap

Planning application Ref 20/01486/FUL has been submitted to build two new houses at Fairfields, Owens Farm Lane, Newnham Road. The whole site shown on the map below is outside the Hook Settlement boundary and inside the Hook/Newnham gap.

Fairfields site location on Owens Farm Lane

The houses will be built where currently there are stables and a manège. We do not usually report on such small developments but are making an exception in this case as we consider it:

  1. Is an inappropriate re-development of the site
  2. Significantly degrades the landscape and views from the Public Right of Way (PRoW), shown above between Hook and Newnham (Church Path)
  3. Most importantly threatens the continued existence of the Hook/Newnham gap.

The applicant argues that Hart Local Plan Policy NBE1 allows redevelopment of previously developed land outside the Settlement Boundary but that policy makes clear that such redevelopment must be appropriate. For reasons explained below this proposed redevelopment is totally inappropriate. In addition, the application makes no reference to the issue of development / redevelopment in the Hook/ Newnham gap

Approaching Hook from Newnham on the PRoW shown on the map above, one currently sees Fairfields House which is farmhouse / barn like, the single storey stables and fencing around the manège, a rural scene giving the feel of being in open countryside. This is reinforced by the fact that the footpath continues on, past the site, into the next field before leading into Hop Garden Road.

If this application is granted, then the view will be of three large houses in a row. This is much more like an urban scene on the edge of a settlement.  A comparison of the before and after scene provided as part of the application is reproduced below:

Current view from Public Right of Way (Church Path)
View from Public Right of Way (Church Path) after the proposed development

The applicant recognises that these houses will be prominent in the landscape and proposes planting semi-mature trees along the side of the development as shown in the map. Unfortunately they will only offer partial screening from a very limited part of the PRoW.  Hence the two new houses would significantly degrade the views from the PRoW. This degradation of the landscape and amenity value of the PRoW is unacceptable.

‘Gaps’ are planning policies used to prevent the physical and visual coalescence of settlements. As stated earlier the proposed houses will visually move the edge of Hook nearer Newnham. This will enable developers to argue the designated gap should be smaller or removed altogether.

The Hook Neighbourhood Plan which defines the gap is valid until 2032. However during that period  it has to be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure it remains valid. A developer has already tried through a Judicial Review to remove the gap from it. We greatly fear that if these houses are built then developers will try to use their existence at the first review to try to remove the gap. If successful that could lead to developments such as the recently defeated 700 home West of Hook / Owens Farm application being approved.

Approval of this application will also encourage developers to submit further applications in the gap.

Full details of the application and objections can submitted from:

Grounds for objection are summarised below:

  1. Inappropriate redevelopment outside the Settlement Boundary
  2. No justification for this redevelopment within the Hook/ Newnham gap
  3. Degrades landscape 
  4. Reduces amenity value of Hook/Newnham Public Right of Way
  5. Proposed landscaping inadequate
  6. Disillusionment with the planning process if the gap policy is flouted.  The many consultations and significant effort to produce the Hook Neighbourhood Plan AND the enormous public response to both the Hop Garden and Owens Farm/West of Hook planning applications, clearly showed that the gap policy is very much wanted by the residents of both Hook and Newnham.
  7. Approval could make it easier for developers to get the gap either reduced or removed from the Neighbourhood Plan at the first review – thus opening up Hook to more danger of large unneeded development. 
  8. Although only 2 houses, they are not needed to meet Hart’s housing requirement and add very slightly to the pressures on Hook’s infrastructure caused by all the other current development

We strongly urge you to object to this planning application. We would  also request you to advise friends and neighbours of this application and encourage them to object.

The closing date for objections is 29th July.