Need for yet more homes is challenged

By Farnham Herald in Community News

CAMPAIGN groups are being summonsed into action following controversial fresh calls from developers.

Barratt Homes, Berkeley Homes and Martin Grant homes have made their latest submissions to the Hart Council Refined Housing Options Consultations.

Their latest submissions have been dubbed “worrying”.

According to the current figures in the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SMHA), Hart must build 7,534 homes in the planning period up to 2030, which equates to around 370 per year.

Since 2010, the most homes built in a year in the Hart area is 338.

And since that point through to the end of 2015, just 1,195 homes have been built in total.

The 2011-based population projections were used as a starting point to help reach the proposed number of homes.

However, more recent population projections have shown that there is slower projection in population figures than previously thought meaning fewer houses should be needed.

Barratt Homes, in its submission has come up with its assessment of Hart’s housing need, which it believes needs 730 homes built per annum.

While Berkeley Homes believes Hart should be targeting development at a range of 540-685 dwellings per year.

And in what has been seen the most troubling assessment, Martin Grant Homes say that Hart’s housing need should be at 730 dwellings per year, a figure which is nearly double the currently assessed need.

The figures show that developers are not building anywhere near the 370 homes required a year to hit the target of 7,534 homes required by 2032.

We Heart Hart said: “It is important that everyone in Hart unites to challenge these ridiculous figures.

“We should also challenge the developers to build the houses that are already permitted and not ‘land-bank’.”

The local campaign group has recently aired its concerns about ‘land-banking’ and called for council’s to be given more power to withdraw developers from sites if they build at a rate that suits them, rather than adhering to the given rate needed to meet housing needs.

Since 2003, the number of outstanding homes still to be built stands at 3,086, ranging from one-bedroom to four-bedroom.

Baroness O’Cathain from the House of Lords Select Committee has previously said: “We see the gap between planning permissions and housing completions as a fundamental one in respect of securing increased housing supply.

“In a climate where over 240,000 homes a year are being granted planning permission, it is a fundamental failure of the development system that over 100,000 fewer homes are actually being built. This situation must be addressed.”

It has also been mentioned that while profits may improve for the aforementioned housing companies if they had their wish granted, and ended up owning more land and in turn more houses, the chances of profits collapsing given the current build rate, would also be very high.

These calls from development companies come days after Hart published the results of its Refined Housing Options consultation.

Option one in the consultation would see development dispersed throughout towns and villages across Hart including Hook, Hartley Wintney and Rotherwick.

Option two would see strategic urban extensions at main settlements west of Hook, Pale Lane Farm near Elvetham Heath and land west of Fleet.

While option three was a new settlement in Winchfield.

Following the publishing of results, the option of a new settlement at Winchfield proved to be the most popular first preference, with 59 per cent of votes.

However, it was also the second least preferred option, with 1,581 saying it would be their least preferred choice out of the three.

The results could be seen as largely irrelevant though, following the announcement of the Pyestock development, which will offer up 1,500 homes, and Hart announcing brownfield development is the preferred strategy.

Yet, following developers’ calls for more homes and faster building rates, campaigners against the Winchfield New Town are being warned to remain vigilant.

Hart District Council somewhat played down the results of the consultation. “The outcome of the Refined Housing Options Consultation should not be seen as determining which strategy the council should follow to deliver its need to deliver new homes.

“The options are still being tested against the evidence base which will include a refreshed SHMA, unmet need in neighbour districts, a sustainability appraisal, transport assessment, water cycle study, Habitats Regulation Assessment, and Adams Hendry site assessment report that will also help inform suitability of sites. 

“It will be this information, when assessed as a whole, that will be used to assess which is the appropriate strategy to follow.”

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