Owen’s Farm Retirement Village Opposition
Following the recent attempt by a developer to build in the gap between Hook and Newnham (700 houses at Owens Farm) this same developer has submitted a planning application for a 160 bed Retirement Village. It is anticipated this is a way to establish building in the Hook & Newnham gap which will facilitate further planning applications in the future
We urge you to object to this latest application which destroys the gap, building on precious green fields.
The new planning application for this 160 dwelling Retirement Village at Owens Farm is Ref:21/01048/OUT. We have reviewed the considerable detail and provide a summary of the application together with details of the many reasons to object. These reasons are listed at the end of this email with a link to the Hart website to submit your comments.
Your objection should be made before the 1st June deadline.
There is a quite some detail to share with you on this topic which we walk through, however, if you need to cut to the chase, you can go to the end of this post for the list of reasons to advise Hart DC your comments.
The Hart Local Plan clearly defines the requirement for ‘standard’ dwellings and where they are to be built until 2032. However, the situation with respect to specialist accommodation is not so clear-cut, allowing developers to try to impose large scale developments on Hook such as this Retirement Village and the previously reported care home in Reading Road.
The developer submitted a pre-application to Hart and Hart’s response to the pre-application for the Retirement Village Ref:20/00199/PREAPP refers to the Hart Local Plan stating:
“Policy H4 (Specialist and Supported Housing) and Policy NBE1 (Development in the Countryside) are directly relevant to the proposal. They allow for specialist and supported accommodation outside settlement boundaries subject to certain criteria:
- there is a demonstrated local need for the development in that area; and
- there are no available or viable alternative sites within settlement boundaries where the need arises; and
- the site is well related to an existing settlement with appropriate access to services and facilities either on or off site.
The proposal would have to robustly justify how it would comply with each of the above criteria. It is advised there is already sufficient provision of extra care facilities in the District to meet needs up until 2032, however there remains a need for sheltered/enhanced sheltered units and for residential care and nursing care”.
It also states:
“At this stage, given the site’s location, it is considered that this local need should relate to Hook area”.
And then concludes:
“In summary, based on the information submitted, the principle of a care village (Land Use Class C2) on this countryside location may be acceptable in principle but this largely depends on the justification that is provided in terms of the local needs identified, quantum of development to satisfy that need, demonstrating that there are no other available sites within settlements to satisfy the local need identified, associated relationship of the development with the settlement and accessibility to day to day facilities.
The development proposed would have significant adverse impact on the character and setting of the countryside, would lead to coalescence and damage to the separate identities and setting of Hook and Newham, as the site forms a large portion of the area designated as a Local Gap, resulting in the loss of important areas of open land around the settlements and would result in the loss of important local views into and out of the settlements.
Overall, the significant adverse impacts of the proposed development are considered to clearly outweigh the potential benefits of the scheme in terms of meeting need for elderly persons’ accommodation and the limited economic and social benefits likely to be provided, even if a local need for a development of the scale proposed was able to be identified. The policy conflicts highlighted in this report associated with the proposed development are so significant that the Council would not regard the proposal as a sustainable development”.
However, despite this response from Hart, the developer has proceeded with an application and the proposed development is shown below in the Masterplan reproduced from the application.
What Impact to the Hook/Newnham Gap?
The site is outside the Hook Settlement Area in open countryside and occupies a major part of the Hook/Newnham gap.
The application includes a detailed gap analysis quoting distances between various points in Hook and Newnham and describing journeys between them by the Public Right of Way (PRoW) and by road and concludes that the development “would not lead to the physical or visual coalescence of the settlements of Hook and Newnham”.
From just looking at the Masterplan it is obvious that the development destroys the gap.
Is there a ‘Need’ for this development?
An assessment of the need for supported dwellings in Hart over the Local Plan period of 2016 to 2032 was undertaken at the beginning of the period and included in the plan. The figures were derived from elderly population, expected rate of growth of elderly population. prevalence rate and existing dwellings. (Prevalence rate is an estimate of demand per 1000 elderly population). The applicant has generated an updated calculation of need based on 2019 information including an updated higher prevalence rate.
Hart estimated 1837 extra dwellings would be required between 2018 and 2032. The applicant has estimated 3934 between2019 and 2032, over twice as many in a shorter period. Whilst not being experts on the subject we question how an updated figure can be so much larger?
Further, the 2019 figures are from before Covid. We believe that the tragic excess deaths of the pandemic will make considerably more dwellings available than before. Further, we believe that a fear of a recurrence with deaths and restrictions on association that care homes suffered will discourage many people from moving from their own homes into a large high-risk facility such as proposed. This means that the prevalence rate should be smaller than used in the applicant’s 2019 calculation. Recalculation of the total Hart need taking into account the two Covid factors should produce lower figures than the applicants 2019 calculation.
Irrespective of the validity of ‘need’ in the whole of the Hart, the applicant has failed to provide any justification of a ‘need’ local to Hook as required by the pre-application response.
What does this Application propose?
The Hart Local Plan defines ‘need’ in terms of sheltered, enhanced sheltered, extra-care, residential and nursing care accommodation.
The application is for 100 Extra Care. 29 Linked Extra Care, 7 Close Care and 24 Care Bedrooms. How these relate to Hart’s categories is not obvious.
Many of these ‘units’ have no age or care criteria, and for this reason are not ‘supported dwellings’ and as a result of that, appear to be “standard” housing.
Therefore, they are NOT the supported accommodation justified under Planning Policy H4.
What about existing care facilities locally?
There are already a significant number of care homes in Hook. Currently Hart is assessing three planning applications, including one in Hook (along Reading Road), for homes providing residential and nursing care. These may well meet any outstanding need.
What About Alternative Sites?
The developer has not found any suitable alternative sites. However, he has restricted his search for alternative sites to the Hook area which is not at all compatible with assessing the need over the whole of Hart. IF a need is identified in Hook after taking into account all the above described factors, then it is certainly going to be much smaller than that derived by the developer. This would then mean a substantially smaller care-home being required and a perfect opportunity to use a typically smaller brownfield site such as a redundant office building.
What About Sustainability?
The application completely fails the third strand of Policy HB4 “the site is well related to an existing settlement with appropriate access to services and facilities either on or off site”
The application states that “Hook’s town centre is located approximately 1.2km east of the site”, that the nearest bus stop is “located approx. 800m east of the site access” and that “Hook railway station is located approximately 1.5km south of the site”. The applicant claims only a modest number of additional vehicle movements since they claim virtually all journeys by residents will be by foot.
- The 1.2km is measured from the access point to the site. Occupants of the houses at the north point of the site will have to walk to the access point on Newnham Road – a total distance of 1.8km – or 1.1 miles.
- We estimate it would take a resident living in the north of the site approximately 30 minutes to walk to the health centre in Hook and 40 minutes to walk to Tesco (as well as considerably longer on the way back laden down with shopping bags).
- Sections of Newnham Road and other paths and pavements are not fitted with street lighting. There are significant safety and security concerns in walking along an unlit section of footway, (perhaps carrying shopping) and this would be a significant deterrent to anyone walking this route – particularly at night.
- The Public Right of Way (PROW) Church Path that crosses the site is completely unsuitable for elderly and infirm pedestrians as it is unlit, is a grass path, involves kissing-gates and no provision for wheelchair or mobility scooter users.
- The existing Newnham Road footway is extremely narrow in places, it switches from north to south and back to the north side of the road, is often wholly or partially blocked by vehicles using the footway when parked, and vehicles often mount the footway to allow oncoming traffic to pass.
With that said, virtually all journeys whether they be undertaken by residents or staff will be by car.
- Newnham Road is a narrow country lane, often less than 5m width, and it is extremely difficult and dangerous for 2 vehicles to pass each other without one having to mount the footway.
- It is unsuitable for any additional traffic.
So, in conclusion, this is not a suitable site for any housing, given its relative distance from any facilities as well as the difficulties of navigating any journeys on foot and the traffic issues already prevalent in the area.
The proposed development will also add a further strain on all aspects of Hook’s infrastructure which is already under pressure due to the current extensive house building, In particular, there will be a considerable increase of pressure on medical services.
What About the Landscape and the Environment?
The development will unacceptably degrade the landscape. The figure below shows the key views from the settlement defined in the Hook Neighbourhood Plan.
Building 13 on the Masterplan is 2.5 storeys and other buildings in the vicinity are 3 storeys. These will completely ruin views D and C.
The Public Right of Way (item 5 on Masterplan) known as ‘Church Path’ has historic and amenity value. It is included in Hampshire County Council’s Historic Environment Record and extensively used for exercise and enjoyment of the countryside.
Leaving Hop Garden Road and crossing the first field using Church Path (PRoW25b) you will be faced by 3 storey buildings. Crossing the next field on Owens Farm (and continuing along PRoW25b) you will be walking alongside the buildings and through a field that will contain the access road and a car park (items 8 and 6 on Masterplan).
This is an unacceptable degradation of both the historic and amenity value of the PRoW.
The applicant plans to plant a new hedgerow (item 4 on Masterplan) to restore the historic field structure. It appears futile to restore two fields to four for historic reasons when the development FILLS one of these restored fields with buildings and another will have the access road running through it and will also contain a car park.
What does the Local Community think?
The applicant undertook a public consultation via a leaflet drop to 600 local properties. 156 replies were received. All were against the development.
And finally, a thought.
Whilst not grounds for objection, if this application is approved it would not only destroy the gap but also place all the fields shown below at risk of future development.
Given all the above factors, we would strongly urge you to object in your own words to this application.
In summary the grounds for objection are:
- This is a greenfield site outside the settlement area
- Unacceptable degradation of Hook/Newnham gap
- Physical and visual coalescence of Hook and Newnham
- Question the significant difference between Hart and the applicants ‘need’ figure
- The ‘need’ figures for the whole of Hart should take into account Covid
- The ‘need’ should be demonstrated for an area local to Hook, not the whole of Hart
- The majority of the dwellings appear to be “standard” dwellings and therefore not eligible to be built in the countryside
- Consideration should be given to the extent that the three care home planning applications currently under assessment by Hart meet any identified need
- There may not be a Hook need BUT if there is, it will certainly be much smaller and be satisfied by a smaller facility which possibly could be built on a brownfield site
- Unsustainable location in terms of journey’s to/from Hook and surrounding villages
- Safety of Newnham Road for pedestrians especially elderly folk
- Unacceptable effect on infrastructure – in particular, medical and roads
- Unacceptable effect on countryside and landscape
- Unacceptable degradation of the historic Church Path PRoW
- Futility of restoring historic field structure
- Public consultation overwhelmingly rejected the proposal.
Full details of the application can be reviewed and your objections can be submitted at:
Hybrid application for a) Outline development (with matters except access reserved) for a retirement care living development comprising up to 160 units (C2 use) and local community facilities, pedestrian and vehicular access, parking areas and landscaping and b) change of use of agricultural land to Suitable Alternative Green Space (SANG) with sustainable drainage pond – Owens Farm Newnham Road Hook Hampshire RG27 9NG
If you prefer to simply email your comments to Hart DC, you can do that quoting the reference number 21/01048/OUT indicating that you ‘object’ and send to email address: email@example.com
You can also write to them at: Planning Dept, Hart DC, Civic Offices, Harlington Way, GU51 4AE
The closing date for objections is Tuesday 1st June.
Please bring this to the notice of family, friends and neighbours and ask them to also object in their own words and thank you in advance for your support in trying to prevent further overdevelopment of Hook.