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Harpenden on the brink.

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Dear Harpenden Green Belt Association member,

Dear Member
 
In our September 2015 newsletter under ‘The way we helped’, I set out some of the reasons, although not all, why Harpenden stands every chance of being ruined as a place to live by St Albans District Council’s (SADC) forthcoming ‘Strategic Local Plan’. The September newsletter is here.
 
I thought you might like to receive an update on what is now a rapidly developing situation.
 
Please forward this email to those you know who live in Harpenden and may not know what SADC are up to. Please ask your friends  to forward the newsletter on to those they know. Membership of the Association is growing as residents discover what is in store for Harpenden but more members are always welcome.
 
Very recently, SADC published an ‘Indicative Draft Strategic Plan’. The Plan is due to be debated at the next meeting of SADC’s ‘Planning Policy Committee’ on 17 November and it is intended that the Plan will then go to a full meeting of all district councillors on 2 December when it will be debated. These two meetings are the last chance for councillors to listen to and act on the views of the District’s residents, who are overwhelmingly opposed to building on the green belt. Councillors have the legal ability to reject all building on the green belt but are being pressed by the planners to surrender up large areas of it to developers.
 
If, as we fear, on 17 November, the ‘Planning Policy’ Committee waves through the Plan and on 2 December the Council accepts that committee’s recommendation, the Plan will be forwarded to The Planning Inspectorate, for the Inspectorate’s consideration. There will be an opportunity for residents to comment in early in 2016 but those comments will not be considered by SADC. They will simply be forwarded to the Inspectorate.
 
If SADC councillors decide to take more time to produce a draft Plan which looks less rushed and incomplete, I would be delighted.

However, that happy outcome is unlikely without considerable political pressure from residents, as your District politicians and planners have run out of time and are under pressure from central government to submit their Plan to the Inspectorate.
 
Two councillors representing Harpenden on 2 December, who are also members of SADC’s ‘Planning Policy Committee’ are Cllr Geoffrey Turner (cllr.g.turner@stalbans.gov.uk) and Cllr Teresa Heritage (teresa.heritage@hertfordshire.gov.uk). PLEASE LET THEM KNOW YOUR VIEWS BY EMAIL BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE.
 
 One can find the draft Plan here
 
You might well find the volume of text daunting, so allow me to make one or two observations:
 
  • In section 2.22 and 2.23 of the draft Plan, SADC say that they have ‘commissioned some innovative work looking at the Environmental Capacity of the District’. This (independent) report concludes by saying that  ‘it would be unwise to permit further urban development in the District on undeveloped land’. Nevertheless, your  District Council intends to build at least 500 new dwellings on the green belt around Harpenden and permit approximately 800 houses to be built within the Town. Redbourn will have to take at least 2,500 houses on green belt land, St Albans will experience extensive new build. In all, and despite the recommendations of the Environmental Capacity report, SADC planners are recommending building 4,500 new homes on undeveloped land.  
  • Across a range of issues, SADC’s draft Plan takes little or no account of the public’s views sent to the Council in the public consultation that took place in the Autumn of 2014. More particularly, most respondents across the District said they did not want green belt built on but that is exactly what your District Council is moving towards doing.
  • SADC did not chose to respond to any of the detailed and professionally prepared submissions of the Harpenden Green Belt Association, The Harpenden Society, The Campaign to Protect Rural England or Harpenden Town Council (HTC).
  • You can read HTC’s very readable, down- to- earth, 16 page submission here
  • Here are some points that HTC made in their submission which caught my eye: 
  • HTC’  ‘deplores the loss of greenbelt land’.
  • ‘It is the view of HTC that in order to demonstrate that ‘exceptional circumstances’ exist to justify the release of green belt land, then alternative options need to be considered more carefully. In particular, it is considered that the option of focusing more growth around St Albans would potentially have more weight within an ‘exceptional circumstances’ argument because of the ability of growth to address issues of deprivation’.
  • No figures have been produced about the impact of development on traffic. Local experience is that traffic and parking issues are becoming increasingly difficult in the Town’.
  • In simple terms (building 500 houses in the northwest of Harpenden) will realise  insufficient developer funding to lead onto the delivery of the required infrastructure’.The planners in SADC actually agree with this so that Harpenden is set to have an even larger infrastructure deficit than presently exists.
  • HTC point out that the site to the north west of Harpenden where the SLP intends to build 500 houses is just one and one half fields from the boundary with another District authority. SADC thus has no control over what may be built between Luton and Harpenden.
  • The draft SLP has not considered in any detail how infrastructure would be provided or financed.
 
The District Councillors representing Harpenden, at some point in the near future, will have to explain to residents how the HTC submission was by–passed in the process of  producing the District Council’s ‘Indicative Draft Strategic Plan’.
 
HTC is right. Harpenden is ‘full’. The Town centre is congested, with parking a real issue, the Luton Road is going to get even busier with the expansion of Luton Airport to 19 million passengers a year let alone with the 2,000 or more cars that come with 1,300 new dwellings, the trains are increasingly packed to the gunnels......I’m going to stop there but I could add more!
 
New members can join the Harpenden Green Belt Association and be kept informed by clicking here

There is no membership fee, we are non-political and there is no obligation to help us but if you care for the future of Harpenden, you may want to.

David Rankin
Chairman
The Harpenden Green Belt Association
 
email secretary@harpendengreenbelt.org.uk
 
 
 
 
Copyright © 2015 Harpenden Green Belt Association, All rights reserved.


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