URGENT: Respond Now to Avoid 900+ Further Houses for Hook
The dust has barely settled on the last round of housing approvals for Hook and before work has started on a single site we are being faced with the critical question of where to build yet more homes. 801 new homes have already been approved for Hook in recent years, some on brownfield sites but mostly on greenfield. Before any of these are built, Hart are now proposing a range of housing locations that could see an additional 934 homes on greenfield sites in Hook. Together this would represent Hook rapidly growing to 150% of its current size. Everyone needs to make their voice heard in a consultation Hart have just launched on the housing options across the district.
Hart Housing Options Consultation
As part of their work towards having an up to date Local Plan, Hart have opened a new consultation on strategic housing options and we would urge all Hook residents to respond. It is a very complex and confusing set of documents and questions. At the recent cabinet meeting to approve the consultation it was readily accepted that this was the case, but that there was no alternative to this complicated format. We will attempt to summarise it but you can read all the published documents at the link for the consultation itself. The summary here is our understanding of the documents and is for use as a general aide to understanding. It should not be regarded as definitive. And we do apologise for the length of this summary – bear in mind that the full core consultation document is 55 pages in length!
Background – Previous Consultation
The consultation is a follow up to the previous one on future housing options that took place last year. That consultation asked general questions about possible ways forward to meet the requirement for new homes. It asked for views on a possible new settlement as one solution, but did not explicitly propose where it would be located. There were 684 responses to last year’s consultation. This new one will be the final public consultation about housing before the proposed Local Plan is issued.
The New Consultation
As a result of the responses and with new information on the housing numbers that might be required, Hart have now developed a more detailed consultation, proposing Winchfield as the site of a possible new settlement but also suggesting alternative strategies for housing location whether instead of or alongside a new settlement.
It is stated that it could take up to 10 years to start delivering homes on a new settlement, so it is likely that other locations would need to be released for housing in the meantime.
The new consultation does not ask for any views about development on brownfield sites because these will always be given priority. All known deliverable brownfield sites are already included in the plans and it is not possible to force other such sites to come forward for development, though if they do they will be given priority.
The link to the consultation documents and the response form is https://www.hart.gov.uk/local-plan-consultation. Hart have promised to add a summary document to the set at some point.
It appears to be mandatory to answer all of the “choice” type questions and in the case of the ranking choices also mandatory to give a preference rating for every option listed.
The Questions and Options
There are 6 questions in the housing consultation. There are also separate questions about the Vision and Priorities for the local Plan. Questions 1 and 2 are about the needs of specialist groups and sites for homes for certain purposes, such as affordable and Starter Homes, Custom or self-build homes, specialist homes for older people, and sites for the Travelling Community. This is an opportunity to give your views on these groups and offer any particular sites as suitable for related housing.
Question 3 asks whether you agree with the Settlement Hierarchy. Hook is defined as being Tier 2, a “primary Local Service Centre”. The other Tier 2 settlements in Hart are Blackwater & Hawley and Yateley. Fleet (including Church Crookham and Elvetham Heath) is the only Tier 1 Main Urban Area in Hart. Although Hook is clearly of a size that when viewed alongside these other settlements would qualify as Tier 2, all of the other Tier 1 and Tier 2 settlements other than Hook have a Leisure Centre and other significant services within 1 mile. It would be legitimate to question the hierarchy on this basis. This becomes important later in the consultation when Strategic Urban Extensions are suggested.
The Big Questions
Questions 4 and 5 are the crux of the consultation. There are three “Approaches” put forward and Question 4 asks you to rank them in order of preference.
The approaches are:
- Disperse development throughout the following towns and villages: Blackwater and Hawley, Crondall, Eversley, Ewshot, Fleet, Elvetham, Church Crookham, Hartley Wintney, Hook, Rotherwick and Yateley.
- Strategic Urban Extensions at main settlements: West of Hook, Pale Lane Farm adjacent to Elvetham Heath, and west of Fleet.
- A new settlement at Winchfield.
The consultation document describes the three approaches. As you can see, the first two clearly require further housing developments in Hook.
Although Hook and other settlements have already been allocated significant housing numbers in this current Local Plan period, no allowance is being made for this. Hook has already been allocated more than a 22% growth from its current size, but this is treated as a “given” and the starting point for the further consultation is after recent approvals. Two of the approaches demand more housing for Hook – sites for greater than 900 more houses are identified, which is more than the huge number already approved. Taken together with those existing housing approvals this would represent an almost 50% increase in the size of Hook compared to today.
We have great sympathy with Winchfield being selected as the possible site of a new settlement. In an ideal world no housing would be required on any greenfield sites and no major housing developments would be required. We also do not underestimate the effect on Hook of such a large new settlement nearby. But without a new settlement, Hook will become an ever expanding housing location with no additional infrastructure proposed, just theoretical mitigation of each individual planning application. Furthermore as our District Councillors pointed out in their recent Hook Focus article, a new settlement is the only way to bring about the necessary improvements in infrastructure.
If you believe that Hook should not take a further significant expansion in this plan period, then you must rank the “Strategic Urban Extensions (Approach 2)” as preference 3 (least preferred).
You may recall that the only major housing development defeated in recent years was the Hop Garden Road development which was fought by Hart at appeal and, with HAAO input and your support, the appeal was rejected. Well now Hart have proposed this very same site and the one north of it as a possible site for housing. There is also a site at Hook Garden Centre proposed. If you believe that these sites should not be developed (and we cannot for a moment fathom the logic of including a site that has just been defended at appeal, at great cost) then you should rank the “Disperse development (Approach 1)” as preference 2.
Because it is mandatory to rank all 3 options, this results in the “New settlement (Approach 3)” as having to be ranked as preference 1. Because this is a “strategy” consultation there is no option to prefer Approach 1 or Approach 2 without stating a preference for more housing at Hook. But you can include free format comments in the response field below the preferences. Question 6, later, allows individual sites (under the Dispersal approach only) to be ranked.
More Than One Approach
Question 5 asks you to say which combination of approaches you would prefer, should more than one approach be necessary. It is almost inevitable that more than one approach will be necessary as no single option will meet the identified housing needs in the required timeframe.
The combinations are rather confusingly called Approaches 4 to 7:
- Approach 4 = Combine Approaches 1+2 Dispersal and Urban Extensions
- Approach 5 = Combine Approaches 2+3 Urban Extensions and New Settlement
- Approach 6 = Combine Approaches 3+1 New Settlement and Dispersal
- Approach 7 = Combine Approaches 1+2+3 Dispersal, Urban Extensions and New Settlement
It may help to visualise these combinations 4 to 7 as follows:
Following on from Question 5, if you support the avoidance of further development in Hook beyond the 22% already approved, the logical order of preferences for these combinations is as follows:
- Approach 4 = preference 4
- Approach 5 = preference 2
- Approach 6 = preference 1
- Approach 7 = preference 3
You may again add free format comments in the response field below the ranking options. For example, you may wish to comment that Hook needs time to absorb the already approved houses and should not have any more in the near future. This makes it unsuitable to have a Strategic Urban Extension at Hook to provide homes in the short term while a new settlement is not ready to provide them. It seems fanciful to expect Hook to deliver over 1700 homes in the first half of the Local Plan period, from a base of 3000.
Question 6 asks you to rank specific sites in Hook or any other settlement upon which you choose to respond. There will be some weighting given (method currently undefined) to how close the respondent lives to the settlement and sites in question. The sites under review are those in the separate “New Homes Sites” booklet issued as part of the consultation.
Residents should take their own view on the ranking of individual sites, or in fact whether to rank any at all. There is a danger in ranking the sites because as with the other questions you are forced to give a preference rating to all sites in a list, even ones you believe are totally unsuitable for development. Yet by ranking the sites you are potentially expressing a preference for the site you do not want, compared to sites in other settlements which may receive no preferences at all.
Draft Local Plan Vision and Priorities Consultation
It is not possible to submit answers on the housing options without also responding to the Draft Local Plan vision and priorities consultation. The relevant document is much shorter than the housing options (just 5 pages of actual information) and there are 3 relatively simple questions. We will leave you to take your own view on the vision and priorities but the draft vision for Hart in 2032 says that “coalescence of settlements will have been avoided”, which is rather an unlikely claim since the West of Hook Strategic Urban Extension under consideration would end around 100 metres from houses in Newnham!
The response to the previous consultation was apparently from just 2% of Hart’s households. This new consultation takes place over Christmas and is outside of the “Hart News” free council newspaper publishing cycle so Hart are sending a postcard to every household notifying them of the consultation. It will contain links to the online information and perhaps how to obtain the documents and respond if you cannot review it and respond online.
We are fully aware that the suggestions above may be viewed as NIMBYism and as we said before it would be wonderful if there were no major greenfield development required anywhere. But this is the format of the consultation placed before us and sadly groups for other areas will be working to prevent development there. If they are successful then Hook is in line for unprecedented expansion.
Hook Parish Council will be holding a public consultation of the options in the Community Centre on Friday 11th December between 7pm and 9pm and on Saturday 12th December between 10am and 4pm. We will have representatives there at times during both sessions.
Although it is incredibly poor timing from Hart to consult so close to and over the Christmas period, but please do take some time to respond to this consultation. It could make a huge different to the future of Hook.