THE PLANS FOR NORTHBROOK
A development for a minimum of 800 houses has been proposed on the Northbrook estate - 1 mile from Bentley, 2 miles from Farnham. The proposal has been put forward to become part of East Hampshire District's Local Plan. A development of this size will dwarf neighbouring villages (Bentley 500 houses, Dippenhall 100 houses, Binsted 500 houses, Froyle 300 houses) and will change the rural character of the area forever.
The new settlement promises a host of amenities from village bicycles to a primary school, a village pub to retail units. village bus service to a tech hub. Neighbouring communities are very sceptical of all that has been promised by the developers and would like to see more concrete plans to place clear responsibility on the developer to bring these ideas to life.
Today on the Northbook Estate you can find twelve listed buildings, including an historic house which is principally used as a popular wedding venue. This is surrounded by acres of rolling farmland and ancient woodland. If the development goes ahead, this beautiful, rural landscape and the setting of the grade II listed buildings will be replaced by 800 houses, employment spaces and their accompanying facilities.
A HUGE NEW SETTLEMENT
OF 800 HOUSES
WHAT THE DEVELOPERS SAY
A minimum of 800 homes
A sustainable green energy village bus service mornings and afternoons
25 village bicycles for hire
A primary school
WHAT WE THINK THIS MEANS
800 houses is likely to lead to 1,500 houses with a larger employment footprint in order to meet the government’s recommendation for a minimum sustainable “new garden settlement”.
The current bus service from Alton to Farnham is not fit for purpose - the service is not reliable or frequent enough for commuters and school children are often late for school.
The site will be largely car dependent with approximately 1,600 cars on site - an average of two per household – and therefore wholly unsustainable.
Cycling along the A31 to and from either Farnham or Bentley station is too dangerous. Cycling will therefore be limited to the country back roads unless a new cycleway is approved by EHDC and Waverley. Cycling is unlikely to be used on the daily commute to school or work.
The primary school will only be built and funded by the County Council once there is demonstrable demand locally for a further 210 Hampshire primary school places - this may take 10 years or longer. For those years the neighbouring primary schools will have to support the Northbrook children. There is no provision for a secondary school - Weydon is currently oversubscribed so Eggars would be the go to school for the community.
A village pub
The Bull pub which is within 500 yards of Northbrook has recently closed down. Pubs in the UK are closing at the rate of 18 per week. It is highly unlikely that a new pub will be sufficiently economically viable, especially given rapidly rising beer taxes and the cultural shift to people drinking at home.
A village tech hub
A village tech hub - Bordon and Whitehall have recently created a tech hub with computer stations and meeting rooms. This is for a development of c. 4000 houses. Will a development of 800 houses be able to support such a facility? How will it be managed? Who will maintain/upkeep it?
2.5 hectares of employment land
Up to 2.5 hectares of employment land will be built on a flood plain. Currently the flooding on the south side of the A31 is so bad that it impacts the road. Any buildings there would be at flood risk on an annual basis.
COMMUNITY VS DEVELOPER PRIORITIES
Any developer’s first priority is to make money from their development, they do not put the community or the countryside first - it is our job as local residents to challenge the developers every step of the way. We should not take their statements at face value but should ensure that all statements are interrogated in detail and where possible guaranteed.
It is proposed that these new village facilities – such as the Hall, Pub, Shop, Technology Hub, Green, Retail Units, all of which could require significant amounts of community funding (and active management) in order to be viable - are subject to a “Village Charter”. However there is no detail provided as to what Charter model is proposed, evidence of its successful operation on this scale elsewhere or developer funding guarantees .
It is also not clear how the governance of any Charter would be established and, most importantly, what role the developer would play in future decision making. Until these questions are answered there can be little confidence that these new village facilities can be viably delivered in timely fashion.