Hart District Council has announced that St Edward Homes has submitted a proposal for the residential development of Hartland Park as part of Hart District Council’s Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA). Hartland Park is a 135-acre site in Pyestock to the East of Fleet (lying between Fleet Pond and Cody Technology Park/Farnborough Airport).
The Fleet & Church Crookham Society is supportive of Hart District Council’s brownfield-first development policy and considers it makes complete sense that, in general, brownfield sites are developed as a priority over greenfield sites (with the caveat that we are less supportive of office conversions as they are not eligible for the Community Infrastructure Levy from developers that goes towards providing the necessary infrastructure that all new dwellings need).
The concern (as proved time and time again) is that infrastructure improvement in Fleet and Church Crookham is failing to keep pace with development. The area has already been fully built out and is full to bursting – which is self-evident from congestion, whether it’s attempting to drive through the town, make an appointment with a GP, or find a school place. A development at Hartland Park, like most options that increase housing numbers in Fleet and Church Crookham, will expand the town with an ‘onion-ring’ style development, just as developments on the edge of Crookham Village (Grove Farm) and Elvetham Heath (Pale Lane) will do.
Whilst we broadly welcome St Edwards Homes’ proposal for housing at Hartland Park, it is essential that any new housing development is matched with infrastructure improvement. Of particular note is that whilst the land is in Hart, residents of Hartland Park will be physically closer to services in Rushmoor and will likely want to use education and health facilities, roads and public transport in Rushmoor. The outcome of any planning application will therefore be heavily influenced by Rushmoor Borough Council.
It will be very important to see detailed housing proposals for the site. It is interesting to note that consultation tables by St Edward Homes fail to specify the number of dwellings proposed, although numbers mentioned in the local press suggest circa 1,000. Given that the site must also provide space for shops, school, community space and other infrastructure, it is likely the proportion devoted to housing will be at a high density similar to that at Zebon Copse. Some groups wishing to protect other sites from unwelcome development are promoting a housing density at Heartland Park that is double that of Zebon Copse, in the vain hope that the site would alleviate pressures elsewhere. The reality, of course, is that this site can only provide a small proportion of the housing that Hart DC needs to deliver (particularly if Hart is forced to take the shortfall that Rushmoor and Surrey Heath Borough Councils are predicting). Hartland Park is likely to provide only a useful stop-gap until a more strategic solution is found to provide the number of dwellings that are being demanded.
Whilst the developer has to provide funding to provide essential infrastructure, from the same pot is deducted the very considerable sums of money required to decontaminate the land of heavy metals and fuels used when the site was a jet engine testing facility for the MOD. There is a suggestion that central government might contribute towards the infrastructure shortfall, but there is no certainty.
Furthermore, whilst Hartland Park’s site is brownfield and suitable for development, we are concerned over the impact on Fleet Pond, an SSSI and nature reserve dear to the hearts of residents of Fleet & Church Crookham and beyond. It will be essential to do everything possible to safeguard this nature reserve from the effects of building and pressures placed upon it by more residents seeking to use it as leisure facility.
The final point is how this affects our position on Hart’s recent consultation on building on greenfield sites to provide the housing needed in current estimates. The latest estimates for Hart District suggest a need for a further 5,500 houses in the period up to 2032 (only 16 years away). Hartland Park will provide only about 1,000 of these, and whilst other sites have also come forward, these piecemeal developments will simply continue the downward spiral of overburdened roads and facilities that we have experienced in recent years. Furthermore, the need for new homes will not cease in 2032, and so Hart will need to plan for the 10 years after that…and beyond. In planning for the future, the Fleet and Church Crookham Society believes that whilst Hartland Park has an important part to play in delivering the homes needed, a new settlement, such as the one proposed in Winchfield, is the only viable solution to provide both for the housing numbers required over the long term together with the essential supporting infrastructure. Such a development would deliver houses at a density for a good quality of life, together with schools, medical and recreational facilities, and good road and railway links for commuters to minimise traffic burden.