Saturday, September 24, 2011

3,000 More Houses in Hook?

The standard way that government imposes a controversial policy is the following.
  1. Give it a really boring title.
  2. Claim it's just a draft, for consultation.
  3. Publish it during the summer holidays, or while MPs are distracted by party conferences or both.
  4. Deride those who oppose it as NIMBYs.
  5. Stress that the policy is in the national interest.
  6. Claim opponents don't understand the proposal or are exaggerating.
  7. Tell civil servants to start giving weight to the policy when making decisions, even before it is implemented.
  8. Say that those who don't agree with the policy are creating myths.
  9. Implement the policy and when people complain say "The papers were all published and you had plenty of time to comment."
All of these ruses have been used by the Government in the draft National Planning Policy Framework.
Let me explain what this policy would mean for Hart, and Hook.
First, the policy takes away most of the protection for green fields that previously existed.
Second, it says that councils must assess every possible need for a house for anyone who might be in the district or who might choose to settle in the district.  (This is called a Strategic Housing Market Assessment)
Third, the council must identify land where these houses might be built.
What change would this make for Hart and Hook?
At present, Hart District Council has draft plans to build 220 houses a year for 20 years: a total of 4,400.  Of these, about 500 might be built in Hook (this is one option, but not definitely decided yet).  Under the NPPF, Hart might need to identify enough land to build over 1,500 houses a year: 30,000 over 20 years.
Where would these houses go?
They can't go in and around Yateley (in the east of the district) because building there is restricted under European law.  So they would need to go in the centre and West:  Hook, Hartley Wintney, Fleet, Odiham, North Warnborough, South Warnborough, Rotherwick, Winchfield.
It's possible that 3,000 or more would be built around Hook, which would double the size of the village.  In fact it wouldn't be a village any more - it would be a town.  The most likely place to build these houses would be in the fields between Hook and Rotherwick.
Now perhaps that you think this is a good idea.  I clearly don't.  

You have the opportunity to tell the government what you think, whether you like the policy or you don't.  Here's how you can do this.
  1. Read the draft document.  It's here.
  2. Fill in the consultation response form here.
  3. Write to your MP.  You can find out who your MP is here.
The government wants your response by no later than October 17th.  So don't be caught out - please write today.
Don't let Sir Humphrey win!

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