The Government’s aim for Neighbourhood Plans is to give communities “direct power to develop a shared vision for their neighbourhood and deliver the sustainable development they need”. The first task, therefore, was to ask local residents and businesses about their vision for the future of the area. To do this Haslemere Vision carried out a series of public surveys and consultations between 2013 and 2016 (for more detail see the link to the Haslemere Vision Consultation results in the evidence list on page 68). Public responses enabled development of a vision for the area that represents the priorities of the local community:
That Haslemere and its villages continue to thrive for all sections of the community; that what is best about the town and its surrounding environments be protected; and that in future a larger, more diverse and vibrant local economy be accommodated with more local workers living and working in the area.
The priorities of the local community led to the key objectives of the Plan:
- To encourage development of high quality socially and environmentally conscious housing that meets the needs of the community and respects the character of the area. In particular to encourage development of more homes for young people, local workers and homes suitable for downsizers
- To protect and enrich our green spaces, biodiversity and the natural environment that surrounds us
- To re-balance road use, limiting the adverse impact of motor vehicles by improving provision for off-street parking and/or improving facilities for alternative forms of transport
- To protect existing employment and to encourage the development of a more diverse range of local employment opportunities to create an increasingly vibrant and sustainable local economy.
Location & role
Haslemere and the villages of Hindhead, Beacon Hill and Grayswood lie nestled in the most southerly Surrey Hills, surrounded by beautiful countryside and protected habitats; a walkers’ paradise. The town serves as an amenities hub in the wider three-counties area (Surrey, West Sussex, Hampshire). The hospital has a catchment population of 60,000 people and the railway attracts commuters from places as far afield as Petworth and even Chichester. The Leisure Centre is the nearest public swimming pool for Midhurst, Liphook and so on. Fernhurst, Camelsdale, Lynchmere and Hammer are not officially part of the Plan area but rely on our supermarkets and facilities and are key parts of our community.
As a result Haslemere is well provisioned for a town of its size and the wide catchment area yields opportunities for retail and employment. Independent shops are a hallmark of the town and retail has proved resilient in recession. There is no room for complacency however, as pressures remain on both the high street and on public services.
Whilst most infrastructure is positioned to cope with the future, parking remains a strain, in part due to projected increases in rail travel. Overall, the challenge is to prioritize some space for daytime/shopper/residential users, whilst recognising the value of the station to the area and remaining commuter friendly. Some redevelopment of the Fairground and station areas (as detailed in Section 5 – Opportunities 1, 2 & 4) could increase parking capacity and decrease the visual impact of cars on the townscape.
Traffic volumes (whilst heavy through Wey Hill) are in line with comparable towns and villages, but roads have little scope to expand to accommodate traffic increases. Investment and planning is required to allow for innovative (non-car) solutions to mitigate congestion and future-proof the network. The single biggest boost for high street retailers is foot traffic, so solutions that make it easier and more pleasant for pedestrians would improve the town’s vitality and local economy.
As in other parts of the UK, light industry has declined and home businesses have increased. The result in this area is that employment sites are being lost to residential development. Retail is still a major employer but retail space is being lost and converted or redeveloped into homes.
The area needs to diversify sources of employment (e.g. through tourism) to replace lost jobs, and support current employers by preserving employment sites, where possible, and by providing affordable housing for local workers.
The need for affordable housing is acute in this area, where house prices are too high for many first-time buyers, young families and local workers. Local employers have highlighted lack of housing (that people can afford) as having a large negative impact on their ability to recruit or retain staff. In other words, if affluent areas wish to support retail and amenities, affordable housing is key to the mix.