On 26 July 2022, Hart District Council’s (HDC) Audit Committee met to consider the internal report commissioned to review the procedures and governance of the Shapley Heath Project, which explored one of the potential options to meet future housing demand in the district.
This project had been undertaken with the encouragement of the then Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG), who promised Hart substantial funding to look at a possible Garden Village in central Hart.
The Shapley Heath project was curtailed in November 2021, when government funding failed to meet the levels that MHCLG had advised HDC to expect. It has however delivered ten informed and evidenced baseline reports which can underpin any future Local Plan Review and help advise the council of the viable options for meeting future housing need. This evidence base has a real value and will benefit the people of Hart should the government allocate the area a substantially increased housing target.
The Audit report did identify a number of deficiencies in the way the project had been managed. These did not have a material influence on the outcome of contract tendering, nor in the quality of the material produced. However, the failure to meticulously follow Hart’s own internal processes is recognised. Hart District Council sincerely apologise for these deficiencies and promise to take the audit report findings on board. A review of the report’s findings and recommendations shall be undertaken and will involve a number of the council’s committees.
Cllr. David Neighbour, Leader of the Council, said “Hart District Council will learn from the mistakes made regarding the governance and procurement of this project. I welcome the work done by the Audit Committee and apologise to the people of Hart for these failings. We will provide appropriate training to ensure that this doesn't happen again.”
Deputy Council Leader, Cllr. James Radley, added “The residents of Hart deserve and should expect full transparency in the operation of the council. That this did not happen on this particular project is a grave concern. I can only apologise on behalf of all those involved and to state my determination that lessons shall be learnt. “
Meanwhile the project's ten baseline reports are saved ready for the Local Plan Review, where they will join output from other housing option studies.
Here you can view the Shapley Heath Garden Community Project Audit in full.