Chapter 3 Context
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3.1 NATIONAL, REGIONAL AND STRATEGIC CONTEXT
3.1.1 Government advice on planning issues is published as a series of "Planning Policy Guidance Notes" (PPGs) by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. These cover specific topics such as local plans, transport, housing, industry, the countryside and the rural economy. The policies within this local plan follow this guidance, and specific PPGs are quoted within the reasoned justification of policies, where appropriate. General advice is also published by national organisations, including English Nature, the Countryside Agency and the Environment Agency.
3.1.2 A major theme running through the recently prepared PPGs is that of sustainability, defined as "providing for present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." This emphasis followed the 1992 Earth Summit at Rio and the resulting Local Agenda 21 initiative for addressing sustainability within local communities. Planning has an important role to play in allowing for necessary development in a way which does not exceed the environmental capacity of an area.
3.1.3 Important environmental resources locally such as ecological diversity and historic heritage need to be protected, but global environmental effects such as that caused by air pollution from traffic must also be considered. Reducing travel by private car is therefore a particularly important aim, which can be encouraged by the provision of employment and services close to homes. Specific guidance on this issue is given in PPG13 on Transport.
3.1.4 Regional guidance for development in south-east England is provided by (what is now) the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions in Regional Planning Guidance for the South East (RPG9), March 2001.
3.1.5 Hart District falls within the "Western Policy Area" of the region. This area as a whole is economically very buoyant but is characterised by measurable pressures and constraints such as the tightness of the labour market, shortages in the housing and property markets, congestion and related transport issues. Positive strategies need to be developed for those areas where pressures are constraining economic growth. Hotspots are to be identified and specific policies developed to tackle local problems. Within the Western Policy Area, part of Hart lies within the Blackwater Valley Sub-Regional Area. The towns within the Blackwater Valley experienced significant expansion in the 1960s and 1970s and again, generally enjoy a buoyant economy. Pressures for further residential and employment development, are partly constrained by Green Belt and international environmental designations such as the proposed Special Protection Area for Birds. This sub area encompasses all or part of 7 separate administrative districts in 3 Counties and as a consequence the Blackwater Valley Network of local authorities has been established to avoid problems occurring through fragmentary initiatives in this area. In order to ensure further economic growth, a co-ordinated approach to land use and transport planning, making best use of existing urban areas and infrastructure will be taken through the preparation of a Blackwater Sub-Regional Study. On completion the agreed strategy for the area will be reflected in development plans, local transport plans and other relevant strategies for the area.
3.1.6 Strategic planning guidance for Hart District is provided by Hampshire County Council in the form of the Hampshire County Structure Plan (Review) prepared jointly by the strategic authorities, Hampshire County Council, Southampton City Council and Portsmouth City Council. The Plan was adopted in March 2000 to cover the period up until 2011.
 
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3.2 OVERVIEW OF THE PLAN AREA
3.2.1 Hart District is situated in the north-east corner of Hampshire and has boundaries with both Berkshire in the north and Surrey to the south-east. The District covers an area of 53,146 acres (83 square miles) and is mostly rural in character. Some 90% of the land area is open countryside used for agriculture, forestry and woodland, common land, mineral workings and reserves, and Ministry of Defence purposes.
 
 
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3.2.2 The two largest settlements of Fleet and Yateley lie towards the eastern end of the District, close to the Farnborough-Aldershot conurbation. A further 16 parishes contain a number of smaller settlements. The total resident population of the District is 80,921 (1991 Census of Population).
3.2.3 The area has good communication links with London, Heathrow and Gatwick Airports and the rest of southern England. The M3 Motorway and main London to Southampton railway both pass through the District. The M4 Motorway is some 12 miles to the north of Fleet, and the M25 is some 15 miles to the east of Fleet.
3.2.4 The highly attractive rural character of the District and the excellent communication links are the key factors that help to make the District an attractive area for commercial development. These factors have also led to undue pressure for housing development. The District also lies on the edge of the Metropolitan Green Belt and is therefore subject to development pressures from Greater London that "leap-frog" the Green Belt.
3.2.5 Hart District has a work-force of around 44,500, around 50% of whom commute out of the District, for example to London, Reading, Farnborough and Basingstoke. A high proportion of the work-force are managers, administrators or professionals. Employment opportunities within the District are principally in the service sectors (84% of jobs); there is a very low incidence of manufacturing, construction and agricultural workers. The current level of commuting out of the District is a matter of concern under the advice on environmental sustainability in PPG13.
3.2.6 Residents of Hart are well-off measured by household income (75% of Hart households have above average incomes, 82% are owner occupiers and 51% have two or more cars). Average house prices in Hart are high and the level of affluence obscures an underlying and sizeable minority of households on very low incomes who are unable to enter the private sector housing market. The problem is compounded by the mismatch of generally large, detached houses to the requirements of those on low incomes which the Council is seeking to address through encouraging smaller units of accommodation via the planning process.
3.2.7 Hart District also includes a great diversity of ecologically valuable habitats. There are significant areas of lowland heath, which is an internationally important habitat, much of which in the District forms part of the proposed Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area for Birds, under European legislation. There are also designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest covering a variety of important habitats. The remaining land of particular ecological value, which is not included within the national or international designations, is now protected under a new County-wide designation of "Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation". More information on this designation system is given in the text to policies CON 1 and CON 2, and the criteria for designation are included in Appendix C.
3.2.8 The District's settlements, centres and residential areas vary in their urban design quality and the attraction of their built surroundings. A number already display a cohesive urban form, visual quality and sense of place. Some villages have features that give a particular focus and a unique identity. Other built-up areas are more disparate and could benefit by improvements in their urban design when proposals for development are considered and by incremental but co-ordinated improvements to their surroundings.
3.2.9 The open countryside and urban fringe areas are both subject to a variety of often-conflicting pressures. Demands for development land for additional housing and other land use changes within the settlements continue to arise. There are also additional development pressures from people wishing to live in the countryside. Modern farming methods, leisure and recreational uses and mineral extraction also have a considerable impact on the countryside, especially on its landscape and the type, extent and diversity of wildlife habitats.
3.2.10 The Environment Agency has prepared a Catchment Management Plan for the River Blackwater, which specifically covers this District. This sets out priorities for the integrated management of the catchment including the amelioration of environmental problems and the conservation of the water environment. Some of these priorities are addressed in the local plan, though the Catchment Management Plan also includes wider land management and pollution control issues.
3.2.11 Hart District has a varied and widespread architectural heritage represented by about 910 buildings listed as being of special architectural or historic importance. Most of these buildings are in the older small towns and villages and there are at present 32 conservation areas. There are also 12 sites with scheduled ancient monuments and there are two historic routes known as Welsh Drovers Way and King John's Ride.
   
 
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3.2.12 The District has experienced a rapid growth in population from 37,379 in 1961 to 80,921 in 1991 (Census of Population) which has at times placed a strain on the provision of services and facilities. There are shortfalls in formal and informal open space provision, health facilities and public transport.
3.2.13 The District Council has sought to improve co-ordination between the various local authorities and public bodies responsible for the provision of services and infrastructure. However, financial constraints in the public sector coupled with continued housing development will lead to the creation of serious problems in the provision of services and infrastructure unless this provision can be made by developers.
 
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3.3 ENVIRONMENTAL ANALYSIS OF THE PLAN AREA
3.3.1 Further details of the Landscape Types / Landscape Character Areas in Hart can be found in "Hart District Landscape Assessment April 1997", available from Hart District Council Landscape Section. This is a supporting document to the Replacement Local Plan. The report was commissioned to fulfil the following objectives:
  to provide a characterisation of the District's landscape based upon the landscape types already identified by Hampshire County Council and the approach recommended by the Countryside Agency in their guidance document on landscape assessment;
  to analyse and describe the elements (landscape, visual, ecological and historical) that contribute to the distinctiveness of areas of different character;
  to evaluate landscape quality across the District with a view to the identification of areas of special landscape quality;
  to identify land use and management issues and to provide broad management guidelines which highlight priority areas for landscape conservation, restoration or enhancement.
     
Detailed Landscape Character Areas
3.3.2 No formal landscape designations are made for Hart District by the structure plan but the attractive and varied countryside of the district is an asset, which the plan intends should be conserved. To assist in this the Hart District Landscape Assessment was carried out, which has identified the 15 landscape character areas described below. These are not intended to impose additional restraints on development. The policies of the plan permit development for various purposes to take place outside the urban areas of the district. It is nevertheless considered important that development should respect the character of the surrounding countryside. The identification of the landscape character areas and definition of the essential elements of their character act as a guide to those proposing development.
3.3.3 The pattern of landscape types provides a detailed impression of the range of character variation within the District and it also provides the basis for defining areas with a coherent character and particular sense of place. A total of fifteen character areas have been identified within Hart District and these are shown on the Proposals Map. The small scale and large number of these areas generally reflects the complexity of the study area landscape and the purpose for which the assessment is to be used; it is broadly consistent with the scale of other landscape characterisations within Hampshire.
3.3.4 In broad terms, the character areas define areas of chalk landscape (Hart Downs); the main river valleys (Blackwater, Whitewater and Hart); the main areas of forest and heath (Bramshill, Hazeley, Bartley, Tweseldown and Minley); and the more mixed landscapes of farmland, woodland and parkland (Dogmersfield, Wellington, Firgrove, Redlands, West Green, Winchfield and Tylney). The essential distinguishing characteristics of the individual character areas are outlined briefly below.
   
1. Wellington
  This character area lies to the extreme north-west of the District and is bounded to the north and west by the District boundary (although the character extends beyond) and to the east by the Whitewater Valley. Its southern boundary marks a discernible change in vegetation character. Its main distinguishing characteristics are:
   
 
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  the formal, historic parkland and well-managed estate character of Stratfield Saye Park with its avenues, parkland trees (including the distinctive Wellingtonias), and the prominent Wellington monument;
  well-wooded character, with extensive broad-leaved and mixed woodlands, forming the setting for the Wellington Country Park;
  a patchwork of fields (mainly under pasture) set within a woodland structure;
  a distinctively heath-like character to the vegetation within woods, hedges and roadside verges (including pine, oak, birch, gorse, bracken and broom) reflecting former heathland and underlying acidic soils;
  subtle land-form falling gently and almost imperceptibly to the east and west into the valleys of the Whitewater and Lyde rivers;
  a dispersed and sparse settlement pattern of individual farm buildings and houses with no major settlements.
   
2. Tylney
  This character area lies to the south of Wellington and is bounded to the west by the District boundary (although its character extends beyond), to the south by the settlement of Hook and to the east by the Whitewater Valley. Its main distinguishing characteristics are:
  a patchwork of mixed farmland and scattered blocks of woodland (including several remnant ancient semi-natural woodlands);
  a strong landscape structure of woods and hedgerows which provide a backdrop to open fields and provide views contained by these features;
  a dispersed pattern of rural settlements (the largest being Rotherwick and Mattingley) comprising small hamlets and scattered farms linked by a network of rural lanes;
  a comparatively remote, rural character due to the sparse road and settlement pattern and the enclosure provided by the frequent blocks of woodland;
  gently undulating land-form which also helps to provide containment of views and create enclosure.
   
3. Bartley
  This is a small, distinctive character area which lies between the southern edge of Hook and the farmland which lies along the edge of the Whitewater Valley. It is bounded to the west by the District boundary although its character extends beyond. Its main distinguishing characteristics are:
  a predominantly wooded character, with extensive broad-leaved, semi-natural woodland on areas of former heathland and an intimate and enclosed character;
  within the woodlands, a mosaic of scrub, grassland and open heath;
  no settlement but significant, localised influence of roads (including the M3 motorway and interchange with A287/B3349) and occasional built development associated with roads or the fringes of Hook.
     
4. Whitewater Valley
  This character area contains the channel and flood-plain of the Whitewater River and its boundary is defined by the fringing farmland that clothes the valley sides or is associated with, and provides a setting for, the valley floor. The far northern and southern extremities are defined by the District boundary. Its main distinguishing characteristics are:
  the distinctively riparian character of the flat, low-lying valley floor with its riverside pastures, willow-lined watercourses, fenland vegetation and well treed character, which creates a sense of intimacy and enclosure;
  gentle valley sides, often quite open in character, which form a setting for the valley floor and are commonly framed by a backdrop of woodland;
  sheltered, pastoral and rural character with few detracting influences except for overhead power lines, which are prominent within the northern and central sections of the valley;
  a sparse pattern of settlement, with roads and buildings located along the higher ground of the valley sides avoiding the wet valley floor.
   
 
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5. Blackwater Valley
  The Blackwater River forms the northern boundary of Hart District and this character area embraces the flood-plain and fringing farmland lying to the south of the river and is defined to the south by the limit of land associated with, or providing a setting for the river valley. Its main distinguishing characteristics are:
  the distinctively riparian character of the broad, flat, low-lying valley floor with its riverside pastures, willow-lined watercourses and well-treed character;
  gentle valley sides, often quite open in character, which form a setting for the valley floor and are commonly framed by a backdrop of woodland;
  varying character from the pastoral, rural and generally unspoilt character of the western section of the valley; the dominance of open water and wetlands in the central section; and the influence of urban development, roads and railway along the easternmost section which forms a communications corridor;
  sparse settlement pattern to the west, with roads and buildings located along the higher ground of the valley sides avoiding the wet valley floor;
  dominant urban form to the east, occupying land right up to the edge of the flood-plain.
   
6. Firgrove
  This character area forms a belt of farmland which lies between the edge of the Blackwater Valley, the extensive forests and heaths of Bramshill and Minley, and between the urban areas of Yateley and Blackwater. Its main distinguishing characteristics are:
  a more or less consistent pattern of mixed farmland and woodland, with medium-scale fields framed by a backdrop of woodland (including remnant ancient semi-natural woodland) and a strong hedgerow structure;
  a distinctively heath-like character relating to the woods, hedges and verges with oak, birch, pine, gorse and bracken as frequent components and indicators of a former heathland character;
  an essentially rural character but with localised suburbanising influences of roads and built development (particularly around the fringes of Yateley, Blackwater and ribbon development along the B3272) and the intrusion of overhead power lines;
  the attractive village of Eversley Cross and the adjoining hamlet of Up Green with their vernacular dwellings, traditional village greens and nucleated form.
   
7. Bramshill
  This character area forms a distinctive swathe of forest and heath across the northern part of the district. Its boundaries are clearly defined by the forest edges to the north and south but to the east it embraces Bramshill Park, which contains open parkland but is intimately associated with the surrounding forest landscape. The eastern boundary marks the transition from more or less continuous forest to the more mixed heathland landscape of Yateley and Hawley Commons. The main distinguishing characteristics of the area are:
  extensive areas of dense woodland (mainly coniferous plantation) on former heathland creating a highly distinctive and enclosed forest landscape;
  evidence of former heathland character in the stands of birch and pine which fringe much of the woodland and the presence of gorse, heather, bracken and broom in cleared areas, glades, rides and forest edges;
  higher profile evidence of man's intervention in the landscape, in the form of commercial forestry, mineral extraction and landfill operations and the creation of formal rides, avenues and other 'designed' landscape features associated with the historic parkland at Bramshill House;
  a comparatively quiet and secluded character in the less accessible parts of the forest which contrast with the localised noise and activity and suburbanising influences of the major through routes, particularly the busy A30 and A327, and Blackbushe Airport;
  an absence of settlements and a very sparse pattern of farms around the edges of the forest area.
   
 
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8. Hazeley/West Green
  This character area forms a tongue of land which lies between the Whitewater Valley to the west, the Hart Valley and edge of Hartley Wintney to the east, the historic parkland of Bramshill to the north, and the A30 to the south. Its main distinguishing characteristics are:
  the extensive and distinctive wooded heathland and open common of Hazeley Heath and a sense of elevation created by its position on a low ridge, which forms a discrete land-form unit between the valleys of the Whitewater and Hart rivers;
  a small-scale pattern of mixed farmland and woodland with a quiet, rural character and with evidence of former heathland in the character of the vegetation;
  limited road access through the area apart from the B3011, which forms a central spine and has a distinctively unfenced, wooded character;
  a dispersed settlement pattern with individual properties strung out along the minor road network within a well-wooded setting;
  historic buildings and parkland at West Green House.
   
9. Winchfield
  This character area is bounded to the north by the southern edge of Hartley Wintney and to the east and west by the valleys of the rivers Hart and Whitewater. To the south, the boundary marks an approximate change in vegetation and landscape character between the predominantly 'heath-like' pasture and woodland of this area and the non-heath-like farmland and woodland to the south around Dogmersfield. The main distinguishing characteristics of the area are:
  a mosaic of farmland and woodland which contain strong heath-like characteristics (e.g. with birch, pine, bracken and gorse evident in hedgerows and woods) to the south but which are absent from farmland to the Northeast;
  a moderately enclosed landscape except for the area to the east of Winchfield which has a denuded and exposed character;
  an area fragmented and bounded by roads (including the M3 motorway, the A30, the A323 and the B3016) and the railway line, which intrude upon its essentially rural character.
   
10. Dogmersfield
  This character area is located within the centre of the district and is bounded to the west and east by the valleys of the Whitewater and Hart rivers and to the south by the edge of the chalk Downs. Its main distinguishing characteristics are:
  the historic parkland landscape of Dogmersfield Park, with its formal gardens, lakes and woods, which occupies the core of this area and defines its overall character;
  the gently undulating land-form which adds prominence to landscape features such as Dogmersfield House and individual blocks of woodland;
  a patchwork of mixed farmland and scattered blocks of woodland (including several remnants of ancient semi-natural woodland);
  a strong landscape structure of woods and hedgerows which provide a backdrop to open fields and contain views;
  the Basingstoke Canal, which winds through the area following the contours and is attractively wooded along much of its length;
  an essentially quiet, rural character with few, scattered settlements (primarily the village of Dogmersfield and hamlet of Pilcot which includes Chatter Alley and dispersed farms;
  a mostly rural road network but with localised intrusion from the A287 running across the area to the south of the park;
  a network of overhead power lines emanating from the sub-station at Coxmoor Wood and which detracts from the rural, unspoilt qualities of the area.
   
 
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11. Hart Valley
  This character area embraces the landscape, which runs along the valley of the River Hart through the centre of the district between Bramshill Park and the edge of the chalk-lands to the south. Although the valley form is subtle and its landscape character is mixed, it essentially forms a broad morphological unit and the river provides a unifying thread, forming the focus for the landscapes that run along its length. Its boundaries are defined roughly as the limit of land associated with, or providing a setting for, the river valley. On its eastern side, the boundary has been drawn slightly wider to include the thin strip of land along the fringes of Fleet. The main distinguishing characteristics of the area are:
  a mixed landscape character which lacks overall cohesion but which has common, unifying elements, notably the river and its immediate flood-plain and a general pattern of mixed farmland and woodland;
  the distinctively riparian character of the broad, flat, low-lying valley floor with its riverside pastures, willow-lined watercourses and well-treed character;
  an indistinct valley land-form, with valley side landscapes recognisable only above Hartford Bridge and to the north of Dogmersfield;
  the parkland of Elvetham Hall which dominates the character of the river valley above its central section.
 
12. Minley
  This character area lies to the north-east of the district and forms a wedge of land between the urban edges of Yateley and Blackwater to the north, the district boundary to the east and the edge of the dense forests of Yateley Heath Wood. Its main distinguishing characteristics are:
  a diverse patchwork of farmland, open heath, woodland and parkland with a mixed, but pervasively 'heath-like', character;
  the extensive open commons of Yateley and Hawley, heavily used as a recreational resource;
  a somewhat suburbanised and fragmented character created by the intrusion of roads (particularly the M3 the A327) and isolated buildings and installations, and its proximity to the urban fringes of Blackwater, Hawley and Fleet;
  the wooded parkland landscape of Minley Manor.
   
   
13. Tweseldown
  This character area occupies the gap between the eastern edge of Fleet and the district boundary, although its character extends further eastwards. Its northern and southern boundary roughly mark the limit of dense woodland cover. The main distinguishing characteristics of the area are:
  extensive areas of dense woodland (mainly coniferous plantation) interspersed with areas of open heath creating a distinctive heath and forest landscape, with characteristic vegetation (including oak, birch, pine woodland, heather, gorse, broom and bracken);
  comparatively quiet and remote apart from the localised noise and activity associated with the A323 and A3103 and recreational activity associated with the race course;
  an essentially rural character but with localised suburbanising influences of urban development around the fringes of Fleet, at Ewshot and around the National Gas Turbine Establishment, the RAE airfield site at Farnborough and the main road corridors;
  a number of man-made wetlands, including Fleet Pond, reservoirs at Parkhurst Hill and Bricksbury Hill, and the Basingstoke Canal;
  complex land-form towards the south of the area forming a series of hills and valleys and creating enclosure and landscape diversity.
   
14. Redlands
  This character area forms a wedge of land between the southern edge of Fleet and the rising ground of the chalk downs further south. It is defined to the east by the district boundary and its western boundary is roughly defined by the head of the River Hart valley. The main distinguishing characteristics of the area are:
  complex geology at the junction of the chalk, London Clay and Bracklesham/Bagshot Beds which is reflected in varied land-form (from the complex of hills and valleys around Dora's Green to the more gentle land-form around the Hart river valley);
   
 
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  a mixed and fragmented character reflecting the underlying physical conditions and also a comparatively complex network of roads and settlements;
  an essentially rural, farmed character but with localised suburbanising influences, including the golf course at Crondall, residential development and 'fringe' land uses around Redlands and Warren Corner, and the influence of the A287 road corridor;
  a well-wooded character which contains views and reduces the visual intrusion of built development and overhead power lines, roads etc.
   
15. Hart Downs
  This character area embraces the whole of the chalk landscape, which sweeps across the south of the district, its overall unity of character precluding further sub-division into smaller areas. Although part of a much larger chalk-land landscape, it is defined to the west, south and east by the district boundary and its northern boundary marks the approximate edge of the underlying chalk and its influence on landscape character. The area's main distinguishing characteristics are:
  typical chalk scenery, with strongly rolling land-forms, smoothly hilltops and dry valleys;
  a dominance of intensive arable cultivation and weak hedgerow structure on the flatter hilltops and shallower slopes at the edge of the chalk, which creates a large-scale, predominantly open landscape with extensive views and a sense of exposure;
  scattered blocks of woodland and a stronger hedgerow structure in the central and southern parts of the downs, particularly on the steeper slopes and in the valleys, which provide some shelter and contain longer-distance views;
  a rural character with few detracting influences, except for the buildings, lights, security fencing and activity associated with Odiham airfield, traffic along the B3349, and the prominent overhead power lines which march across the downs;
  a network of minor roads crossing the downs, with an unspoilt and rural character,
  a dispersed pattern of small villages and hamlets (such as Long Sutton, Well and South Warnborough), with the larger settlements of Odiham and Crondall located on the edge of the chalk-lands, typically with a nucleated form and attractive streetscapes of vernacular buildings.
   
 
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