East Hampshire District Local Plan: Joint Core Strategy

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2. A profile of East Hampshire

2.1 East Hampshire is an exceptionally attractive part of southern England. It is a popular place in which to live, work or visit with historic market towns and attractive villages set in beautiful countryside with rich biodiversity most of which is internationally or nationally protected. The buildings, open spaces and particularly the landscape, all contribute to the special character of the area. Together, they provide a rich heritage that adds to the quality of life for residents and people who work here, and attracts visitors and tourists.

2.2 Land will be needed to meet the needs of local people in the future. This is for new homes, jobs, shops, community facilities and open space. For example, there are not enough homes in East Hampshire to meet future needs. This is because the number of households will continue to grow even though the population of East Hampshire will not go up rapidly.

2.3 The Council and National Park Authority must try to meet the development needs and the wishes of local people. Many people are also concerned with the impact that new development has on the character of their communities. The Council and National Park Authority must respect that view and protect the environment and natural resources for current and future generations. Achieving this balance is the essence of sustainable development.

2.4 The Sustainability Appraisal, Council Strategy and the Sustainable Community Strategy all identify a number of key issues that will affect East Hampshire over the next few years. These need to be taken into account in this spatial plan as do the major environmental constraints including the areas internationally protected for their wildlife and the South Downs National Park.

Key Issues and Challenges

2.5 The Joint Core Strategy must provide a response to the key issues and challenges facing the District. These are set out below.

Sustainable Economic Development

  • A net loss of some 3,500 jobs6 in all sectors between 2006 and 2009, with particular reductions in manufacturing, banking, finance and insurance related jobs.

  • mismatch in the local economy between jobs available (around 43,000 mainly lower skilled) and a more highly qualified and professional resident workforce (around 55,000)

  • High levels of out commuting and the associated impact on availability of higher level skills locally. The overall net commuter out flow from the District is about 11,600 jobs7 (in 2001, about 13,000 people commuted in and 25,000 residents commuted out).

  • Transport and infrastructural difficulties partly due to the rural nature of the District.

  • Dependency on the public sector and other service sectors, with the threat of potential job losses in the future.

  • An ageing population that can impact on the local workforce, including a lack of managers for businesses.

  • Difficulty in retaining skilled and talented young people. Low level of skills and these do not meet the needs of the local economy. The lack of accessible vocational provision within the District, results in a significant outflow to surrounding areas.

  • Constrained development options across the District combined with a policy focus on protecting the environment and local countryside.

  • Loss of employment land to housing which is considered more economically viable.

  • Town and village centres need to remain attractive and enable people to enjoy quality lifestyles.

  • With the designation of the South Downs National Park, more visitors may come to the area as the profile of the area is raised. Additional tourism can bring pressure on the local environment but properly managed, tourism can provide the opportunity to contribute sustainably to the local economy.

  • Rural enterprise needs to benefit from diversification of activities on farms and support for landowners and rural services.

Sustainable Communities

  • Providing for housing development in an area of high constraint.

  • High average house prices (20% higher than the regional average8) and an unfavourable ratio of house prices to gross incomes (twelve times the average annual salary in 20109) create affordability problems for local people, first time buyers and essential key workers, especially in rural areas.

  • There is a deficit in affordable housing supply and the current completion rate is below the annual level required to address the deficit (at January 2011 there were 4452 households on the Joint Housing Needs Register10). Provision of affordable housing in rural areas is particularly problematic.

  • An ageing population that has specific housing requirements.

  • The ageing population has long term implications for health care needs, housing mix and other social services.

  • Many people in rural areas find it difficult to access healthcare facilities and transport costs of providing services in these areas are high.

  • The locally identified pockets of deprivation need to be addressed.

  • Access to recreation, leisure and cultural facilities needs to be improved.

  • Perception of crime is worse than actual occurrence.

  • There are a significant number of adults who have poor literacy and numeracy and there is a shortage of vocational training.

Natural and Built Environment

  • The National Park covers 57% of the District. Much of the remaining countryside is unspoilt and locally distinctive. This limits development potential but also provides a substantial quiet recreational, tourism and heritage resource and contributes to the local economy by attracting visitors and tourists. Noise and light pollution contribute to a loss of tranquillity in the National Park. Measures are needed to reduce their impact.

  • There are a number of priority habitats of nature conservation importance and a variety of protected species in East Hampshire. Areas of local value outside the designated sites also need to be recognised and protected. The fragmentation of habitats is reducing their potential to support wildlife. The potential conflict between protecting the Wealden Heath (Phase II) SPA and providing homes needs to be resolved. Climate change will affect biodiversity through changing habitats.

  • The open areas that separate towns and villages contribute to their character and identity and should be protected.

  • There is a need to conserve the historic and cultural heritage for future generations as it is an essential part of what makes the District a distinct place.

  • The likely effects of climate change will include heavier rainfall in winter increasing hazards from fluvial flooding and the number of properties that are at risk from flooding will go up. Surface water flooding will get worse as a result of more frequent storms. Low river flows will occur because of drier summers.

  • Over 80% of the District is underlain by a principal aquifer and 40% within a Groundwater Source Protection Zone which provides specific drivers to ensure groundwater quality is protected.

  • Government policy requires new development to promote sustainable construction, energy and water conservation and renewable energy.

Transport and access

  • High car ownership reflects the rural nature of much of the District with heavy traffic on the roads resulting in localised congestion.

  • Of particular concern is the volume and speed of traffic using rural lanes which detracts from the tranquillity of rural areas, and can conflict with other recreational users.

  • Traffic is likely to be the major source of air pollution in the District. Development has the potential to make congestion worse and therefore reduce air quality, especially along the A325 and A3.

  • People in outlying areas must have access to jobs, shops, hospitals and other services and facilities to avoid being isolated. However, providing public and community transport is a problem in rural areas.

The four parts of the Plan Area

2.6 The Plan Area falls into four distinct areas, each of which face different issues and challenges.

South Downs National Park

2.7 In preparing the Joint Core Strategy jointly full account has been taken of Section 62 of the Environment Act 1995. This places a duty on National Parks and any other relevant authority to have regard to National Park purposes in undertaking their statutory duties. The two main purposes (Section 61) are:

  1. to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the National Park; and

  2. to promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the National Park by the public.

2.8 In addition, the National Park Authority has a duty to foster the social and economic well-being of communities within the National Park. This duty also been taken into account in this Joint Core Strategy.

2.9 A key challenge in the National Park is to determine the role of the larger settlements within it which could potentially change following the designation of the National Park in 2010. These are:

  • Petersfield - an important historic market town with a main line railway station providing a centre for shopping, services and facilities, as well as employment opportunities for the local community and residents from surrounding villages and hamlets. The natural beauty of the countryside provides an important attractive rural setting to the town.

  • Liss - a large village with a mainline railway station and most of the key services including employment and a reasonable range of local shops and services meeting many of the day-to-day requirements of residents in both Liss and surrounding smaller villages and hamlets. The attraction of the village is the way that it merges into the surrounding countryside.

Whitehill Bordon

2.10 Whitehill Bordon (population 14,136) is the second largest town in the District. It has a range of services generally spread throughout the town but they are poor for a town of its size. The town is very different to the traditional market towns in the surrounding locality as it has been home to the Military for nearly 110 years. In 2006 the Ministry of Defence carried out a Training Review and announced its intention to relocate the bulk of the MoD training activities, currently carried out at Bordon Garrison, in phases from 2014/15 onwards.

The main issues currently facing the town include:

  • 1,500 jobs will be lost when the MoD move out resulting in a reduction in spending power and impacting on local firms who rely on MoD for business;

  • There is a lack of investment in good value commercial premises and high quality sustainable employment sites especially for small/medium sized businesses;

  • The poor range of shops means that people are spending their money elsewhere. The existing retail centres include the Forest Centre and the group of shops at Chalet Hill/HighStreet. The Forest Centre looks dated, has high rents, no means of expansion and lacks a sense of place or civic focus;

  • The town lacks detached properties and is perceived as a town for starter and more affordable family homes. About 65% of homes are within the lowest council tax bands (A,B,C);

  • The town is surrounded by land of high ecological quality; some heathland is of international importance;

  • Air quality issues are apparent along the A325 corridor;

  • The size and range of facilities (such as community, health, sports and leisure) in Whitehill Bordon are limited;

  • In general, Whitehill Bordon residents are less qualified; this is partly due to the lack of further education and training facilities and difficulties people without cars have in accessing educational establishments elsewhere;

  • The withdrawal of the armed forces will impact on already falling school rolls;

  • 65% of residents currently commute out of town mainly to Surrey and the Blackwater Valley.

2.11 The withdrawal of the Bordon Garrison exposes the town to the severe risk of negative economic and social consequences particularly if there is no comprehensive strategy in place.

North of the South Downs National Park

2.12 The part of the District to the north of the National Park is focused on the important market town of Alton, and a number of large villages (principally Liphook, Four Marks and Grayshott) with a varying range of services and community facilities. These settlements need to enhance their roles as sustainable communities providing commercial and community uses for the wider area.

2.13 Further development in these settlements should take into account their relationship with the South Downs National Park. The scale of new development should also be such that it complements the need for Whitehill Bordon to regenerate and attract new investment including the provision of employment, a range of services and housing to ensure its viability as a strategic development area.

Southern Parishes

2.14 The southern parishes of the District based on the main built-up areas of Horndean, Clanfield and Rowlands Castle lies within the area designated in the former South East Plan as the ‘South Hampshire sub-region’. For this area the Partnership for Urban South Hampshire (PUSH) continues to aim to deliver a strategy for economic-led growth over the plan period, making South Hampshire more prosperous, attractive and sustainable and offering a better quality of life. East Hampshire District Council is a member of PUSH.

2.15 The three settlements are outside but close to the boundary of the National Park. The main challenge for this area is to create sustainable communities and ensure that, whilst being a part of an area focused on economic growth, the character and distinctiveness of the natural and built environments of these settlements are protected.

Relationship with surrounding areas

2.16 The District is not self-contained. What happens in the District affects the adjoining areas and vice versa. The large South Hampshire conurbation to the south and larger centres such as Basingstoke, the Blackwater Valley, Guildford and London to the north offer wider employment, shopping, social and cultural facilities; but can add to housing, traffic and other pressures on the Plan Area. The opening of the Hindhead Improvement in 2011 may add to these pressures on the settlements in the A3 corridor.

2.17 The West of Waterlooville Major Development Area to the south of the District may help to meet some of the housing and community needs in that part of East Hampshire but the potential impact on transport and other infrastructure will have to be carefully monitored.

2.18 Residents of the District and beyond can enjoy the special qualities of the South Downs National Park, but developments in the remainder of the District can affect the National Park’s sensitive environment. Some sites adjoining the edge of the National Park are important to its setting.

2.19 The relationships with the adjoining areas have been key considerations in drawing up the Joint Core Strategy and will need to be given proper attention in its implementation. Close working relationships with other local authorities and partners will continue to be essential.

6 EHDC Skills Audit 7 EHDC Assessment of Employment Needs and Floorspace Requirements 2008 8 Based on data of 429 sales from the land registry, compiled by BBC news, 2010. 9 ONS 2010 10 EHDC Housing Needs Team
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