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Grove Farm

Oct 2017 Latest News: Grove Farm Appeal finds in favour of building 423 new houses in West Fleet

Bad news - the planning inspector has just found in favour of the developer and approved the Grove Farm development.

The findings of the inspector can be found here: https://acp.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/ViewCase.aspx?CaseID=3167135&CoID=0

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Planning Decision Pending.

The latest application to build 423 houses at Grove Farm was heard at the planning meeting on Wednesday, 14 December 2016 at 7.00 pm Council Chamber, Civic Offices, Fleet.

The planning officer recommended that the committee approve the application, despite it being practically identical to the previous application which was unanimously rejected in 2015.

Consideration of the Grove Farm application came in a late-running and difficult committee meeting after consideration of multiple and complex planning applications for the house and land at Bramshott House.

FACE IT and Crookham Village Parish Council presented in objection to the application.  The major points for discussion were the impact on the designated local Local Gap between Fleet and Crookham Village, and the impact on traffic especially in conjunction with the other considerable development in the area.  After debate, the committee rejected the officers recommendation to approve the application, but a final decision was not reached on the grounds for rejecting the application.  The decision on this application was therefore deferred and is expected to come to planning committee again in 2017.

The planning papers can be viewed here.

We await a decision on this application.

New Planning Application (2016)

Berkeley Homes has put forward an outline planning application on 24 June 2016 and it was validated on 07 July 2014 under reference 16/01651/OUT  at Land North Of Netherhouse Copse, Hitches Lane, Fleet, Hampshire. The application is for • up to 423 residential dwellings and a community facility;  • associated vehicular, pedestrian and cycle access; • drainage and landscape works; • provision of public open space and sports pitches; provision of country park / SANG as an extension to Edenbrook Country Park. The means of access to the site (details to be agreed) will be via junctions on Hitches Lane to access Crookham Village and Dogmersfield.

Details of the application can be seen through the website http://publicaccess.hart.gov.uk/onlineapplications by entering the reference number: 16/01651/OUT into the search box.

The outline planning application can be found under reference 16/01651/OUT  on the Hart District Council planning portal or directly by following this link.

This application is substantially the same as the previous one (14/01387/MAJOR) submitted in 2014 which was unanimously rejected by Hart (see below).

Berkeley Homes are proposing a development at Grove Farm off Hitches Lane to the west of Fleet. The proposals included 423 homes opposite the provision of space for an expanded / renewed Leisure Centre for Hart.  The area is an integral part of the Hart River Valley which is important for the local environment and biodiversity.

Description of Site

Grove Farm is a large area of land immediately west of Fleet and to the East and West of Hitches Lane and it includes both the hill known locally as ‘The Tump’ and Netherhouse Copse, an area of ancient woodland..

An extensive, open area of arable farmland north of Netherhouse Copse is dominated by a prominent and gently sloping hillock, a local landmark known as the ‘Tump‘.  This is particularly visible, being 13 metres above the floodplain and surrounded by well used public rights of way on three sides and Hitches Lane on the fourth.  This hillock is of local importance as its landform has great natural beauty with gentle slopes in common with the subtle landform throughout the valley.  Skylarks are known to breed at the site and the sound of skylarks is well-known in the area as shown on this video:

Skylark Walk Around The Tump:

South of this open, arable compartment is a valuable, diverse and low-lying vale occupied by ancient woodland, wet woodland, ancient hedgerow, meadows and a pond.  The area is of great recreation, biodiversity and landscape value being highly accessible from the village and adjoining west Fleet, using a network of public and permissive footpaths. This high quality landscape has a high sensitivity to change.  Netherhouse Copse is an ancient woodland and a Site of Interest to Nature Conservation (SINC).  It is a fragile environment, its important ground flora being especially vulnerable to increased use and trampling.

Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) 

The area concerned is identified in Hart District Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (December 2010, updated November 2013) as site SHL40 Land North of Netherhouse Copse and is bounded as shown below.  Note that the area of the proposed development by Berkeley Homes includes the hillock known as the Tump and extends to adjoin housing at Fleet (Tavistock Road, Broadacres, The Croft and New Barn Close) and Crookham Village (Netherhouse Moor, Swan Way) and The Street) and effectively makes Fleet and Crookham Village part of the same large conurbation.

The area to the west of Hitches Lane may be used for an extenstion to the country park, a relocation of the leisure centre, and playing fields, but some of the existing country park is also being taken by additional housing proposals by Berkeley Homes for Edenbrook Phase 2.

The SHLAA entry for this Site reads (at November 2013)

Parish: Crookham Village

Site size: 24.7ha (east of Hitches Lane), 19.1ha (west of Hitches Lane), total 43.8 ha

Estimate of potential housing capacity:500

Current Land Uses:Open agricultural land.

Summary of opportunities:

Eastern part of the site Flood zone 1 (lowest risk of fluvial flooding); Low potential likelihood of surface water flooding;
No Scheduled Ancient Monuments, Historic Parks and Gardens, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, National Nature Reserves, Local Nature Reserves, Common Land, or Tree Preservation Orders in the vicinity of the site or close enough to be affected by development at this site;
Site considered to be suitable, available and achievable.

Summary of Constraints:

  • Site is outside the settlement boundary of Fleet, but is adjacent to it;
  • Small Hill on site;
  • Much of western part of the site in flood zones 2 and 3, main river runs along western boundary; High potential likelihood of groundwater flooding;
  • Several listed building nearby to southern boundary of the site;
  • Site is adjacent to a Conservation Area to the south;
  • Site of Importance for Nature Conservation within the western part of the site;
  • Within 5km of the SPA:
  • Small areas covered by TPOs;
  • Several public rights of way cross the site;
  • Small areas of ancient woodland present on site;
  • Residential development would not be permitted at this location under current policy.

Recommendations for overcoming constraints:

Hilly area of site could either be left undeveloped or could be re-graded to permit some development on this part of the site.
Residential development on the area of the site within flood zones 3 and/or 2 should be avoided.  The design of any residential development may need to incorporate mitigation relating to groundwater flooding, and should not adversely affect the setting or character of the nearby listed buildings or Conservation Area. Development of the area of the site which is a SINC should be avoided.
A contribution towards SPA mitigation will be required.
The trees covered by TPOs should be retained, as should the areas of ancient woodland.
Public rights of way should be incorporated into the design of the development or re-directed.

Policy would need to be changed for this development to be permitted by way of extending the settlement boundary for Fleet.

Assessment of Deliverability / Developability:
* Not currently developable *

In the November 2015 update to the SHLAA this site remains as possible site for development.

Pre-Application Advice and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) (2013)

In 2012 a topological survey was undertaken of the site.  Surveyors were on site for several weeks and trees were marked as surveyed (see FACE IT Press Release: Green Lane Turns Red .

In October 2013 Boyer Planning on behalf of Berkeley (Homes) Strategic wrote to Hart District Council asking whether an Environment Impact Assessment for the site would be required before a planning application was submitted.

request for pre-application advice was made to Hart District Council on 11 October 2013 under reference 13/02140/EIAE (Request for a screening opinion under part 1, regulation 5 for the development of Land north of Netherhouse Copse to provide 450 new dwellings with associated highway improvements, public open space, landscaping and infrastructure and the provision of the suitable alternative natural green space).

A number of comments were received including responses from Crookham Village Parish Council and Hart Town Council.

Environment Health believes that, should an EIA be required, or the proposed development be progressed, detailed consideration will be required in relation to the following matters, made in relation to the provisions of the National Planning Policy Framework Paragraphs 109,120 and 123:-
- Noise
- Land Contamination
- Traffic and Air Quality
- Light pollution
- Strategic drainage capacity

Hampshire County Council Highways confirmed that a full Transport Assessment will need to be provided which will fully assess the transport and highway impact of the proposed development, and a Travel Plan will also need to be submitted.

The public consultation period for this request has now ended and Hart are no longer accepting comments from the public on this application.
Hart District Council made the decision on 18 November 2013 that an Environmental Impact Assessment would be needed to allow consideration of a planning application for this site.

The Environmental Impact Assessment has been produced and was received at Hart District Council on 13 June 2014.


Pre-Consultation on Grove Farm (2014)

Berkeley Homes have engaged in a public pre-application consultation on its proposals.

The pre-consultation provided initial information about the proposals to create a new neighbourhood on the site of farmland at Grove Farm (land north of Netherhouse Copse). The proposals include a realignment of Hitches Lane and a lowering of the height of the Tump before building on it.

An exhibition was held on 9th and 10th of May 2014 at Calthorpe Park School and the WI Hall in Crookham Village.  A good attendance was reported.

A Pre-Consultation website at http://www.northofnhc.co.uk contains details of the proposed scheme including the exhibition materials and provides you with the ability to submit your views.

Berkeley Homes welcomed further comments on their proposals and their Pre-consultation was open until the 19th May 2014 but is now closed.

[updated July 2015]

Planning Application (2014)

Berkeley Homes put forward an outline planning application on 13 June 2014 and it was validated on 03 July 2014 under reference 14/01387/MAJOR at Land North Of Netherhouse Copse, Hitches Lane, Fleet, Hampshire. The application is for • up to 423 residential dwellings and a community facility;  • associated vehicular, pedestrian and cycle access; • drainage and landscape works; • provision of public open space and sports pitches; provision of country park / SANG as an extension to Edenbrook Country Park. The means of access to the site (details to be agreed) will be via a junction and a new roundabout on Hitches Lane to access Crookham Village and Dogmersfield.  The outline planning application can be found under reference 14/01387/MAJOR on the Hart District Council planning portal or directly by following this link.

During the consultation, FACE IT gave information on how to respond to this, and similar, planning applications.

Outline Planning Application Refused (July 2015)

The Hart Planning Committee meeting on Fri 31 Jul 2015 considered the application and the recommendation from the planning officers to refuse the application.
The report indicated that, although there were no objections from many of the statutory consultees, there had been considered objections raised by Crookham Village Parish Council, Church Crookham Parish Council, Dogmersfield Parish Council and Fleet Town Council.

There had ben 197 neighbour representations raising objections and submissions in objection by FACE IT and the Fleet & Church Crookham Society.

After debate the application was refused.

No appeal was made within the 3-month appeal period however the application has been subsequently re-submitted (see below).

The site remains an available site for development in the SHLAA and has been designated as as part of a possible urban extension of Fleet (November 2015).

New Planning Application (2016)

Berkeley Homes has put forward an outline planning application on 24 June 2016 and it was validated on 07 July 2014 under reference 16/01651/OUT  at Land North Of Netherhouse Copse, Hitches Lane, Fleet, Hampshire. The application is for • up to 423 residential dwellings and a community facility;  • associated vehicular, pedestrian and cycle access; • drainage and landscape works; • provision of public open space and sports pitches; provision of country park / SANG as an extension to Edenbrook Country Park. The means of access to the site (details to be agreed) will be via junctions on Hitches Lane to access Crookham Village and Dogmersfield.

Details of the application can be seen through the website http://publicaccess.hart.gov.uk/onlineapplications by entering the reference number: 16/01651/OUT into the search box.

The outline planning application can be found under reference 16/01651/OUT  on the Hart District Council planning portal or directly by following this link.

FACE IT Position on Proposed Development at Grove Farm

FACE IT opposes large-scale development at Grove Farm.
This greenfield site is designated as ‘not currently developable’ in the SHLAA and would require a change in planning policy by Hart to develop it.

Coalescence of Villages with Fleet and Church Crookham
FACE-IT supports the Hart District Council vision for Hart and particularly welcomes the intention to respect the separate character and identity of Hart’s settlements and landscapes.  It remains particularly important to FACE-IT that Grove Farm, Pilcot Farm and Cross Farm are maintained as a ‘green gap’ to preserve the village identities of Crookham Village and Dogmersfield and to prevent their coalescence with Fleet and Church Crookham.  The effect of building on this greenfield site would be to close the gap between Crookham Village and the urban area of Fleet to the North, a gap which is crucial to retaining the character of Crookham Village and its Conservation Area.

FACE-IT believes that the best strategy to meet the development needs in Hart would not concentrate the majority of the development in an area to the immediate west and south of Fleet.  The principle of tacking on developments on greenfield land around the periphery of Fleet will result in dormitory enclaves of high-density housing remote from services and facilities with attendant social and sustainability issues.

Additional Dormitory Development
There are no community facilities on the adjacent Netherhouse Moor estate to which residents of new development might gain access. Development here would therefore be very isolated socially unless a significant area is allocated to community facilities. Existing developments on the south and west edges of Fleet already suffer from lack of community facilities and have little to offer adjacent additional developments. Further fragmented dormitory developments adjacent to these existing estates would add to social problems caused by lack of access to community facilities due to distance and paucity of public transport.

Environmental Damage
The valley of the River Hart to the west of Fleet and around Crookham Village and Dogmersfield is more biodiverse than some nearby designated areas.  This diverse and largely undesignated countryside of mixed farmland, woodlands and river valleys are also exceptionally rich in biodiversity with important populations of some of England’s most threatened and iconic wildlife and habitats.

The Grove Farm site includes part of the River Hart Valley which forms an important ecological corridor linking the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area, the River Hart valley and the Basingstoke Canal SSSI.  Although largely undesignated, the Hart River valley to the west of Fleet and around Crookham Village and Dogmersfield is more biodiverse than some nearby designated areas, including the SPAs. The Hart Valley is highly accessible and valued by local people.
FACE-IT believes this outstanding natural area and important landscape asset should be fully recognized and protected, for the District’s sustainable future and to maintain the quality of life for people of the District.

This site includes 14 species of birds on the UK BAP Priority List which breed in the area and a further 9 species that have occurred. This is exceptional and includes breeding populations of district importance eg 15+ pairs of skylark, 10 pairs of yellowhammer, 3 pairs of reed bunting and 1-2 pairs of northern lapwing. Development of Grove farm would destroy the core of this population.  The site is also important for rare and declining cornfield annual plant communities that like dry, acid soils including corn marigold, bugloss, corn spurry, wild pansy, storksbill and poppy with sheep’s sorrel on the field fringe.

The Grove Farm site includes and surrounds the Netherhouse Moor Site of Interest to Nature Conservation (SINC). It is difficult to see how the quality of this woodland can be protected when surrounded by high-density development. Some areas may be designated as Sites of Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANGs) either directly or via contribution to the existing SANG-nominated sites, including the Edenbrook Country Park, but it is unproven whether SANGs are effective in mitigating the effects of housing on disturbance into SPAs.
A detailed environmental assessments must precede any final consideration of this greenfield site for development.

Inadequate Infrastructure
With the QEB and expected Edenbrook extension developments, the infrastructure (transport, health and schools) will be at or exceed capacity. There are already insufficient secondary school places in the Fleet area and future primary school options are undefined – additional large developments in the area would exacerbate this.

Transport corridors from Grove Farm would include west Fleet, Crookham Village, Dogmersfield and Church Crookham. These roads are already at capacity and there is little scope for significant upgrades to existing routes. Development at QEB has yet to complete and this will bring further traffic past the site to Calthorpe Park School and up Hitches Lane to Hartley Wintney and the A30.

Further large scale development would overload these roads as commuters transit to employment outside the area, especially as 60% of residents work outside Hart.
The site is over two miles from Fleet centre and the station, making walking and cycling unlikely, and there is  poor public transport.  Additional demand from commuters will exacerbate the traffic and parking problems at Fleet Station.  The additional 150 parking spaces currently under construction will only partly address the existing demand.

We welcome the provision of revised traffic studies based on the now proposed housing allocations but our concerns remain that these may not reflect the actual traffic problems and issues that will arise from the further developments in the area.  In particular any further development at Edenbrook will need due consideration to the traffic patterns generated by the additional housing, especially in light of the commuting patterns of the local population.

The population of Fleet has increased by 9,000 in the last 10 years, but no new General Practice (GP) surgeries have been built to accommodate this significant increase in population.  Fleet has three major GP surgeries which are: Fleet Medical Centre, Branksomewood Surgery and Richmond Surgery. These surgeries are already overloaded, needing further investment, some of which may be able to handle the further increases from existing developments at Edenbrook and QEB.
However another 450 homes will only increase the burden further.

The impact of 450 additional homes on schooling provision will be severe. The site is not within easy distance of a primary school.  Secondary schooling is even more of a problem. As Courtmoor School in Fleet is already at capacity and cannot be expanded, the children of secondary school age will have to attend Calthorpe Park school or travel out of the immediate area of Fleet to find schooling.  The planned increase in the size of Calthorpe Park will be insufficient to cater for all those needing a place (according to Hampshire County Council’s prediction model).  They predict that an additional 6 forms per year will be needed but Calthorpe Park’s expansion will only cater for 4, leaving a shortfall of 2 forms (about 60 children).  This prediction only includes Elvetham Heath, Edenbrook and QEB.  It does not take into account any further local building proposals. When the Aldershot Urban Area is completed (4500 houses), it is likely that all the schools in Rushmoor will also be full.  HCC are not proposing to build another secondary school.

Run-off water from new development will presumably be fed into the River Hart and thence into the Loddon Catchment. Existing drainage issues in the area, particularly at the recent Edenbrook development, are already bound to be further exacerbated by new developments in the area.  Flooding currently affects gardens in Hawkins Grove and Netherhouse Moor adjacent to the gap between Netherhouse Copse and Netherhouse Moor estate.  Similar issues apply to the removal of foul water.

Summary
In summary this is yet another bolt-on development to Fleet in a site that is not a suitable location for large-scale housing development. It is a greenfield site that forms part of the Hart Valley which is an important ecological and landscape feature of the area and is an existing open space amenity for local people. Development here would cause environmental damage, and will cause additional infrastructure issues with a road system already overburdened with significant other local developments.