We did it – no development of 700 houses at Owen’s Farm
After Hart and residents had stated their case to the Planning Inspector hearing the Appeal for the 700 home development at Owen’s Farm to the west of Hook, the developer withdrew their appeal before even presenting their own case! We won!
Or to put it another way, after Hook Action Against Over-development, the Parish Council and other individual residents had made their representations in writing and in person, the developer realised what we already knew to be true – there was absolutely no justification for their application, let alone their appeal. So one might ask why did they even go to appeal against the refusal of planning permission if their case was so weak? Well they had gambled on being able to hoodwink everyone that the plethora of issues with the application were resolved and that they could get their appeal pushed through before the Hart Local Plan and Hook Neighbourhood Plan had been adopted, which would formally block out this site for residential development. But we knew there were still significant issues and brought them all to the fore.
The developer did make the withdrawal conditional on each party paying their own costs. Hart and the other participants fighting the appeal decided that this was acceptable. The costs incurred so far were worth swallowing in order to halt the proceedings there and then rather than extending the appeal, incurring more costs and risking an adverse result, even though we believed that their chances of success were slim. Given the massive imbalance of spending on the appeal, making them swallow their own costs and their failure to realise a return on their investment on the whole venture ensures that there was a big financial penalty to them withdrawing the appeal.
With the Hart Local Plan and the Hook Neighbourhood Plan at advanced stages now, another application for development on this site should not be feasible until at least 2032 and still the same access, transport and landscape issues are likely to apply then making it a brave developer who would chance an application. There will be a review of progress on housing delivery in 4 or 5 years and if Hart are under-delivering it is possible the Plan may need to be revised, but we hope that even then this site would be unattractive for all the existing reasons.
And we should stress that the fact that the Hook Neighbourhood Plan had by the time of the Inquiry been submitted to Hart for formal review was a considerable factor in itself. I know we have been talking about it for a long time, but it was worth it. The Neighbourhood Plan does still need to be formally adopted once reviewed by Hart and that will be by a public vote, so watch out for that – we will of course let you know when that will take place. We need to get it formally adopted so that it has full planning weight as soon as possible.
There is still the issue of the Common Land and Village Green applications to be resolved. We have already written to the relevant department at the Planning Inspectorate pointing out that they are now definitely not necessary because development here is not going ahead and therefore the applications should be refused if they are not withdrawn first. We will let you know when we hear more.
We have already received hundreds of messages of thanks by email and on Facebook and we are sorry we can’t reply to everyone individually, but we would like to say thank you back to everyone for your support. It does feel a bit like Hook has been under assault for the past 5 years and of course major expansion of the village is already underway. Hopefully we can now pause for a breath and allow the new residents who are coming into Hook to be welcomed and join us in making a life here. We know we are lucky to live here for all the practical reasons that make Hook a great place to live, for the proximity to the countryside that we have fought hard to protect but of course mainly for the great people we have as friends and neighbours in the village.
A huge thank you to everyone who worked on the action in every way, big or small, to defeat this development!