Cllr Anne Crampton is the Leader of the Conservative Group on Hart District Council.
Hart is a small District Council in the North East of Hampshire. We have a Conservative MP and a Conservative-controlled County Council. Yet the District has an administration of a coalition between the Liberal Democrats and a group that advertises itself as a local independent party called Community Campaign Hart (CCH). Some of our residents tell us that they vote Conservative in General Elections but not in local elections. Some believe that the Council is Conservative-controlled and some do not vote in local elections at all.
The reality is that of the 33 councillors in Hart, 11 are Conservative, 11 CCH, 10 are Liberal Democrats, and one is an anti-development independent. It is their mentality of “development anywhere except in our wards” that has led to the success of CCH in recent years. Indeed their latest campaign is to build up to 10,000 houses in a very rural part of Hart which ironically will extend to the very borders of CCH areas.
It is this scheme for a “garden village” that may well result in their downfall and is very much the focus of our campaign leading up to the May elections. We need to retain the five seats we have and would need to win all six of the remaining seats to have a small majority. However, even with the undoubted uplift from the Conservative success in the general election in December, and Brexit uncertainty behind us, winning these extra seats is a major task for at least this year. It’s not as though this administration has been a great success.
They blame us, as the previous administration, even though they have been in control for almost three years. They blame the County Council and the Government for their lack of progress, the prospect of difficult financial times ahead, and the delays to the Local Plan. They blame us for the resulting developer-led development of Hart. We achieved regulation 18 consultation when we were in control which is a long way into the process.
Financially, they have produced a balanced budget with the revenue from our investment, though are spending money like water. Hart has seen an unsupportable increase in staff with more to come. Some new members of staff are due to the collapse of contracts, some to pursue their commercialisation agenda and for the climate change agenda which we support. We cannot support, however, the £500,000 put aside to develop the “Garden Community” development. This project called “Shapley Heath garden village” could see 10,000 houses in open countryside, joining up the urban areas of Fleet and Hook via Hartley Wintney. All baseline studies will be commissioned and paid for by developers so will inevitably be developer-led and it is contrary to the Conservative policy of “brownfield development first”.
The Coalition has broken promises. A motion was put to Council by CCH a year ago, requiring Council to review parking charges. We are still waiting in spite of our many attempts to raise this and it has yet again been kicked into the long grass. When we regain control of Hart, we will save our countryside by stopping the “garden village” project. This will save the Council money and officer resources, which could be better spent revitalizing our deteriorating High Streets. We would embark upon an early review of our local plan. We have enough houses with permissions, not to need more houses until later in the plan period. We would do the parking charge review and provide an hour of free parking which would boost businesses locally.
We would develop our climate change strategy. This administration has achieved nothing in the five months that the climate change working group has been meeting – and that is disappointing. I have to say that the portfolio-holder’s claim that building 10,000 houses more than we need “contributes to our climate change agenda” shows a woeful lack of understanding of the issues facing us. Each house built contributes 50 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. To offset that a forest of some 244.7 square miles would have to be planted.
We would work with the police and crime commissioner to tackle crime, both rural and urban. Our newly selected candidate, Donna Jones, has already been in touch to offer her support, and if elected, together, we will tackle the issues that affect our residents. We would invest in additional Community Safety Police Officers, strengthen the Community Safety team, and increase community engagement to tackle increasing anti-social behavior and local crime. We would work with our County Councillors to tackle the scourge of potholes blighting our roads. Health and Wellbeing of our residents is of prime importance to us.
We have a community hospital that is under threat. The Clinical Commissioning Group here wants to create a hub to provide a large range of health care facilities located on one site. We tried to provide extra car parking spaces for the extra staff in one of our nearby car parks but were defeated by the opposition. We would provide the parking needed to help our community hospital thrive.
Hart has beautiful green spaces. We have plans that would protect and enhance them and make them more accessible and inviting.We have the ideas, plans, and ability, to make a real difference to the community in this part of Hampshire. Hart has been, for a number of years, considered one of the best places to live in England. Our vision is to keep it that way.