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September Update

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Dear Harpenden Green Belt Association member,

I hope you had a chance to read the email I sent to you on 12 April. It covered the critical issues that face Harpenden as a consequence of our District Council’s emerging 'Strategic Local Plan' (SLP). I thought that you might like an update. 
  • Following the elections on 7 May, the Conservatives control our local District Council. The Leader of The Council is still the Conservative, Julian Daly.He is also remaining as Chairman of The District's 'Policy Planning Committee' (PPC) which is tasked with drafting an SLP.

    The Committee did not meet in August but will recommence its monthly meetings on 15 September.

    Its work has fallen behind schedule as it grapples with inter alia, staff shortages in the planning department, contentious planning applications from big developers and key SLP issues like trying to find the finance for new infrastructure.

    The Harpenden Green Belt Association attends every meeting of the PPC.
     
  • At the national level, our Conservative government frequently proclaims that it wants to protect the green belt. However, your local MP, Peter Lilley, has recently stated that he is in favour of protecting just the 'core' Green Belt in our District. We do not know what 'core' green belt means. You will not find a definition of it planning guidance documentation. Searching for it on Google gets you closer to judo that planning guidance. 
     
  •  The fact is that there is great pressure from central government and developers to build more houses than ever in our District. As we do not have a sufficient supply of non-green belt to build on, our green belt is very likely going to be built on. 
     
  • The way things are at the moment, at least 500 new dwellings will be built on green belt around Harpenden to add to the 800 to be built within the Town. 

    2,500 dwellings will be built on green belt near to Redbourn and many of those residents will come to Harpenden to shop or to use Harpenden’s train station. 
  •  On top of those figures, swathes of new dwellings will be built in and around St Albans and in places not that far away such as Hemel Hempstead and Welwyn Garden City. 
     
  •  You may think that all this potential development is well thought out and carefully planned at a strategic level with regard to, inter alia, key issues like new schools, road and rail congestion, parking in town centres and water supply. 

    In fact the drafting of a 'Strategic Local Plan' produces mountains of paper every month but little clarity on what all the potential development means for you as an existing resident.

    For example, at the last meeting of the PPC in July, the planners were asked to provide a rough estimate of how many residents of the 2,500 new dwellings that may be built near Redbourn might use Harpenden railway station and how many might need to park in Harpenden to shop. They had no idea and said so.
     
  •  If we consider the 1,300 new dwellings to be built in Harpenden, they will result in (say) an extra 2,000 cars on Harpenden's roads.

    Just taking the lack of parking spaces in the town as an example, all the planners can think of is that parking spaces at the rail station can be increased. However, they have not taken into account that the access roads to the parking at the station are narrow and frequently congested already. Incidentally, we know that Network Rail will not finance any extra car parking space.

    Very close to the rail station and its congested access roads, the parents of children attending the new Academy in the centre of Harpenden are to be required by the school to drop off their children at the Bowers Way car park.

    With the school taking 210 children from September, the access roads and the road junctions around the school site in Vaughan Road look likely to be a touch busy at 'drop off' and 'pick up' times. More so when the number of children at the school eventually rises to 420.

    The centre of Harpenden was obviously built in another era and its capacity to absorb more people and cars is quite clearly limited.

    The planners are aware of those capacity issues but started out with their ‘strategic’ plan on the basis that Harpenden had to take its percentage share (based on population) of the total of new dwellings to be built. Incidentally, the idea currently being floated by Peter Lilley of a new 'garden city' was never likely to be considered by the planners as it would take at least 20 years to create such a city.

    Whether Harpenden can cope with 1,300 new dwellings is the question which the emerging SLP does not answer.

    Thus if the provision and siting of one new secondary for existing children in the Harpenden is proving to be so problematical, how difficult will the provision of another school to accommodate the children of new residents be? 

    And with regard to traffic congestion on the Luton Road, the Lower Luton Road and traffic congestion in the Town itself, the Local Highways Authority did not undertake comprehensive ‘transport modelling’ to assess the impact of an extra 1,300 new dwellings in or around Harpenden before the drafting of the SLP got underway. Indeed it is refusing to say whether it ever will do such modelling.

    For that reason alone but for other reasons as well (see http://www.harpendengreenbelt.org.uk/index.html ) we consider that the draft SLP continues to be and is an ‘evidential dog’s breakfast’.
 
Please forward this email to as many residents of Harpenden as you can.

They can join the Harpenden Green Belt Association and be kept informed at

http://www.harpendengreenbelt.org.uk/index.html

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

David Rankin
Chairman
The Harpenden Green Belt Association.

And finally, .I have been asked to draw your urgent attention to http://www.strife.biz/STRIFE/Home.html




 
 
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