Hart's development plan labelled 'unsound'By Stephen Lloyd
January 11, 2013
A COUNCIL’S development blueprint for the next 15 years has come under fire from a neighbouring authority.
Wokingham Borough Council has branded Hart District Council’s Local Plan Core Strategy ‘unsound’.
The document details how land for housing, employment, infrastructure and retail open space will be delivered. A total of 2,301 homes are earmarked for sites across the district.
Under the plan, Yateley would take 160 new homes, Hartley Wintney 220 and 500 in rural settlements and previously developed land in the countryside.
Keith Baker, Wokingham’s executive member for highways and planning, said Hart’s growth in a number of locations could affect the borough.
“It is considered the development of some sites in the document would have implications for this council, particularly for the provision of infrastructure,” he said. “The key issue the council is objecting to is whether the plan has adequately considered the needs for infrastructure improvements in and adjoining Hart district to deliver the development envisaged.
This raises issues of whether the plan has complied with the requirements associated with the Duty to Co-operate under the Localism Act 2011. The council considers the pre-submission document is therefore unsound as set out.”
Mr Baker said Hart’s pre-submission document states the council looks to the boroughs of Bracknell Forest, Wokingham and Reading together with areas in Hampshire and Surrey for services and employment opportunities.
“To access those in Reading and Wokingham boroughs would mean travel through Wokingham Borough on public transport services or the highway network,” he added.
“It is therefore important that consideration of the impact on the borough’s transport network of Hart district’s core strategy is undertaken and then addressed.”
Mr Baker said Hart’s existing Local Plan has safeguarded proposals to improve both the A33 and A327 corridors, including an alignment for an Eversley by-pass. However, these are not retained in the core strategy. It has been viewed that the core strategy does not comply with the ‘duty to co-operate’ as it does not fully demonstrate why the proposals should not be retained.
“In contrast Hampshire County Council, in its submissions on Wokingham Borough’s proposed submission managing development delivery document, supported that the council had retained a safeguarded alignment for the section of the Eversley bypass within the borough,” added Mr Baker.
“There appears to be an inconsistency in this approach. As a significant number of people already travel from Hart district to both Reading and Wokingham boroughs, it is important that Hart District Council demonstrates through appropriate technical evidence that its proposals can be delivered without the need for improvements along the A33 and A327 corridors or that these can be undertaken in accordance with the normal planning process.
“Without this, it is not considered that the Hart Core Strategy has met the duty to co-operate and is neither justified nor effective.”
Hart has sent every house in the district an eight-page special edition of its council newspaper outlining details of the plan, which included a feedback form for residents’ comments. The council will consider all the comments it receives and then assess if any changes are necessary. The document will then be submitted to the Secretary of State and subjected to an Examination in Public by a government-appointed inspector.
If found ‘sound’ by the inspector, the plan will be adopted by the council in summer 2014.
Stephen Parker, Hart’s cabinet member for planning and deputy council leader, said the document from Wokingham Borough Council is a holding objection pending discussions.
“The corporate director and I are meeting with them at the end of January, as we are with other neighbouring authorities, to discuss all these points to resolve any differences,” he added.