Council failings identified in report

By Farnham Herald in Community News

HART’S Annual Monitoring Report (AMR) has shown a number of the district council’s failings in a wide range of areas.

Campaign group We Heart Hart pinpointed a number key areas where Hart’s report has shown a number of sizeable shortcomings.

Hart’s AMR is the 13th for the district council and covers the monitoring period of April 1, 2015, to March 31, 2016, with the report compulsory under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 which states that every local planning authority must make an annual report to the Secretary of State.

While not an utterly damning report, the number of failings has created concern among We Heart Hart.

The first part of the report which throws up a red flag is section 2.2 which covers the Local Development Scheme (LDS).

It states: “The LDS 5th revision is out of date and currently under review.”

The campaign group said: “The AMR is for the financial year up to March 31, 2016. At that time the LDS was out of date and has not since been updated. Hart District Council claim they will publish a new LDS when they publish the draft Local Plan. However, the Local Plan has also suffered a long series of delays.”

And with the LDS initially looking towards summer 2016 for a draft Local Plan, the group isn’t optimistic it will see one by the summer of 2017.

Further failings came in the form of the council failing to implement the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), a new system which is used to collect infrastructure contributions from developers.

The new flexible system allows for the pooling of money between schemes for larger pieces of infrastructure and allows for some money to be distributed to parish and town councils to meet local needs.

However, once again citing Local Plan delays as the reason, the system is yet to be implemented with Hart and as a result it has not followed obligations of an AMR to report how much CIL money has been received.

Hart say it will not be implemented until their Local Plan is adopted.

The council also received criticism following the publishing of the report for the type of land signed off for future developments.

Despite the report showing 72 per cent of homes delivered in the year 2015-16 were on brown field sites and other previously developed land, just 42 per cent of future developments have been assigned to brownfield sites.

Just over 1,000 of the 2,377 dwellings with planning permission will be built on previously developed land, meaning possibly over 50 per cent of future developments are assigned to green field sites.

Section 5.11 brings further misery for Hart as it revealed that it has missed its affordable housing target for each of the past four years, with outstanding planning permissions showing that it will continue to miss desired targets.

With the target of new homes being affordable set at 40 per cent, the AMR shows that since 2012, the range of delivering on their target ranges from just 11 to 22 per cent.

As calls for more affordable housing in the area are made, the future looks no brighter, with just 27 per cent of outstanding planning permissions set to be affordable.

Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) is also a hotly contested issue in the district and the report shows that Hart is running out of SANG capacity. Despite being in the process of acquiring new strategic sites, as of March 31, 2016, there was capacity for just 1,162 new homes.

A final issue was highlighted by We Heart Hart which claims that two “secret meetings” were held with promoters of the Winchfield New Town.

The first took place in October 2015, while the second just six months later in March.

The former centred around “the provision of a secondary school and primary school(s) at a potential new settlement in Winchfield” which yielded an outcome of a “shared understanding”.

March’s meeting involved meeting with Hampshire County Council to “understand the work to date on transport by the site promoters.”

While the report was by no means fatal to Hart, David Turver of We Heart Hart concluded: “This report, taken together with the interminable delays in the Local Plan are damning evidence that the members and officers at Hart District Council simply do not have a clue how to run planning in general and the Local Plan in particular.

“Surely, it is time for root and branch change of personnel.”

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