NE Hook Outline Planning Application Opposition Statement
Hart Planning Committee Meeting 10th September 2014 7pm
Statement in opposition to the application
I am speaking tonight on behalf of Hook Action Against Overdevelopment. Our group has over 700 supporters in Hook and this presentation has been put together with input from a group of the leading members. Obviously it has not been possible to consult and include the views of all of our supporters.
This application represents overdevelopment of Hook. On its own it represents a 15% increase in the number of houses in Hook and this is on the back of two other major sites approved in Hook in the last 6 months altogether representing a total increase of 20%. The site itself is in a poor location, separated from the rest of Hook by two of the busiest roads in the district and poorly served by public transport. Hart’s own assessment of this site said that accessibility by foot and cycle was weak and by bus was average – and that was with bus services that have since been withdrawn. Hook’s roads are frequently gridlocked at peak times and most of these new homes will be occupied, as so many others in Hook, by people who travel outside of Hook to work.
Now, I could spend the rest of my speaking time explaining further why this application should simply be rejected – there is a very long list of reasons. But we are all expecting that you will still approve this application.
Under the NPPF the failure to have an up to date Local Plan means the developers are in control. Until there is a confirmed 5 year land supply, almost any significant development adjacent to an existing settlement appears impossible to resist. This particular development would confirm Hart’s 5 year land supply and for now close the window that was opened with the withdrawal of the proposed Local Plan.
Furthermore we have been informed that if it is not approved now then an awful situation will get even worse through yet more development, including hundreds more houses in Hook, which would still not prevent this development going ahead. This explains why this application has come before you in what is clearly an incomplete form. Usually following the consultation period a developer will provide updated documents addressing issues raised by consultees and the public. There have been no revisions published. Usually the planning officer will have recommended some planning conditions necessary to grant permission, but here your officer’s recommendation is to grant permission then immediately refer it to the Major Sites subcommittee to determine all of the conditions. This is clearly an application far from ready for approval.
Yet we still expect that you will approve it this evening for the reasons I gave a moment ago. Nonetheless I look forward to hearing members debate the merits or otherwise of the application itself, not just the desperate need to approve it.
So Hook has clearly suffered from the failure of the Local Plan and the order of planning applications received from developers. We are looking to you to ensure that this development, should you choose to approve it, is given conditions that will avoid a disaster due to this rush to approve.
If this application is approved, Hook will have taken far more than its fair share of Hart’s identified housing need for this local Plan period to 2032 and we expect to see the new Local Plan explicitly rule out any additional development at Hook beyond those already approved.
If these houses are built, the population of Hook will exceed 10,000. It is time Hook got the facilities that would be expected for a population of this size and we expect Hart to bring forward plans for such in due course.
Turning to the major issues with this application, there are problems with site access, road safety, traffic and rat-running, lack of public transport, flood risk on this site and to adjacent sites, drainage and sewage. For example:
- How is a proposed access from the B3349 acceptable now when such access was refused on grounds of safety at the same position for the Reading Road development just months ago?
- How will primary school children walk to school when having to cross one of two main roads with no controlled crossing?
- How will traffic, which can already back up past the location of the new Sainsbury’s entrance and one of the proposed site access points, be controlled to prevent gridlock and consequent rat-running through the existing estates?
- Will the recent updates to the sewage pumping station handle all the new developments or will storage attenuation tanks still be needed? If so who will repair and when necessary replace the proposed on-site sewage attenuation tanks in 10 or 20 years time?
- The Environment Agency has been scathing about the flood analysis and even the proposed Sustainable Drainage.
We fully support you referring access and surface water drainage to the Major Sites committee. However in light of the previously stated questions, and many more that arise from the application, we would request that you also refer the following items to the major sites committee for detailed consideration.
1. Road safety and integration with the rest of Hook: Zebra crossings or other controlled pedestrian crossing points are obviously required in the short term on the A30 and B3349 to provide some protection for residents to safely access the rest of the village, including for children getting to school. This is in line with established policies encouraging children to walk to school, but will also serve to connect the new development to the rest of the village. If pedestrian priority crossings are not provided then the car will be the default choice for many, leading to traffic and school parking chaos. Since a substantial number of children will be unable to walk to school for a variety of reasons, significant modifications will be needed to the vehicular access to the school to allow for at least 20% more car trips, perhaps a lot more. Parking and drop-off is already a huge issue at the school – it is clearly well beyond capacity – and I am sure an expansion of 20 to 30% is unthinkable for local residents as it stands.
In the longer term some of these issues would be best addressed by creating a new North-South bypass to the east of Hook and this new development, as well as an A30 bypass to the south of Hook. These bypasses, while substantial alterations, would at a stroke address some of the major concerns surrounding this proposal and we would like to see them as a condition.
2. Traffic: Anyone who lives in Hook, and has experienced the traffic issues as we have, knows that the simple and localised traffic counts that have been carried out for this application do not reflect reality. The single carriageway roads in and out of the village are frequently backed up to Rotherwick, The Hatch, Hound Green or the M3. As I said before most people in Hook travel outside of Hook for work. At the business park the majority of workers come from outside. The existing traffic problems are already a huge cause for concern for the businesses in Hook (including on the business park) and 20% more journeys could render the business park untenable if the traffic problems are not sorted out. The bypasses described above would remove the through traffic.
In the short term there needs to be enforcement of the existing access-only estate roads to prevent rat-running that is already an issue. The traffic problems affect the whole village and a whole village traffic review must be carried out.
Hook is fortunate in having a mainline station, but the train is a costly and inflexible mode of transport. Hook needs regular bus services to reduce reliance on cars for every individual resident.
3. Sewage: We believe that the failing pumps in the pumping station have recently been replaced, but our understanding is that these have the same capacity as before, though they should be more efficient and reliable. But clearly the upstream capacity needs to be increased – attenuation tanks are an antiquated sticking plaster, not a solution. Specific conditions need to be included to ensure that the pumping station can cope with the combined increase from all of the developments including Odiham as we believe this station handles waste from that direction also.
4. Flood Risk: Further detailed analysis needs to be carried out in light of the Environment Agency criticism. Not just the effect on this site but on the adjacent residential areas and the rivers and streams that run alongside.
Now ordinarily members of the public would have had a chance in advance of tonight’s meeting to review the proposed resolutions to issues raised during the consultation period. Well over a hundred residents have provided feedback on the application and many, including myself, have spent a considerable amount of time reviewing the 184 documents in the application and several people pointed out some glaring errors. Yet none of the application documents have been revised. It does not feel like our input has been taken seriously and erodes even further residents’ confidence in the process.
Given that this application is being rushed through in a premature state, we believe that it is vital that public participation is permitted in the Major Sites review if the application is approved in this meeting this evening. We recognise this is not how it usually operates, but approving an application in this state is clearly an exceptional case and you have already acknowledged this tonight by allowing a longer presentation than usual. So we would ask you to directly instruct the major sites committee to provide for public participation with respect to this application.
We are prepared to contribute to the efforts to improve this application and whether or not this input is accepted, be assured that we will be watching this application very closely every step of the way.