New planning application with massive implications for Hook

Greenwell is the name given by the developer to the site containing the office block Providence House which has been unoccupied for some time. This office block is currently being redeveloped into 107 apartments. No planning permission was required as conversion of office to residential is a permitted development under government legislation.

When this conversion was announced we raised the issue of the loss of parking spaces to the surrounding office buildings. The site had been used as overflow parking for some years and even with this parking there is huge pressure on parking across the whole business park. Losing these spaces would lead to parking in residential roads near the business park. But these were not grounds for resisting the conversion.

Now, however, a second application has been made for the remainder of the site. Since only 100 or so parking spaces were needed to support the office block once converted to flats, there was remaining car parking space available and the plan submitted is to build two new blocks of flats on this space with a further 101 apartments and some small commercial space below one of them.

It cannot be overstated how much this development could influence the future of Hook. The developer is using the principle of the automatically permitted office conversion to flats as justification for use of the whole site for residential use. If this site is converted to wholly residential use, then what about adjoining office blocks and their car parks? A conservative estimate based on the density proposed for this plot would indicate that a domino effect through the “newer” business park area could lead to 2,000+ apartments between the railway bridge over Griffin Way South and the BMW/Mini showroom. And of course there are also further requests to convert offices in the “older” business park area at Osborn Way.

As is the case elsewhere, affordable housing is needed in Hook, though the selling price of the first apartments on this site could barely be described as such with 1 bedroom apartments listed at more than a quarter of a million pounds! Flats do play a useful role in a varied and balanced local housing stock and the Landata House development has yet to take place plus Bartley House next door to it is also proposed for conversion to flats so there will be plenty forthcoming. But if this new development is waved through then Hook could change beyond all recognition in a very short time with high density housing becoming preeminent in Hook.

Unlike office conversions, approval for these additional blocks is not automatic; a full planning application process is necessary so we all have the chance to object to this on grounds of scale, density, transport and community impact. Conversion of redundant offices is one thing, but covering Hook in blocks of flats is quite another.

Please register your comments before 12th August at Developers know that if they lodge these contentious applications over Christmas or Summer holiday periods they can reduce the number of adverse comments, so let’s give them plenty of responses.

The developer held an exhibition of their plans at the Community Centre in May 2016 and the attendees were recorded as being “limited to local council members, parish members and two future residents of the adjacent Providence House scheme“. The developer is claiming that the lack of interest from residents was “considered to be reflective of the suitability of the site location for absorbing residential development within the village in a manner which is acceptable to its existing residents“. Lack of attendance was far more likely due to lack of any awareness of the exhibition among residents. Nobody involved with Hook Action Against Overdevelopment was even aware of the exhibition having taken place and given that we are on the lookout for such things that reflects the paltry efforts made to publicise it, or perhaps the great efforts made to keep it quiet. It is quite some feat to achieve such a low turnout so they should not be so modest about their achievement in attracting practically¬†nobody to the exhibition.